U.N. Appeals for the Displaced on World Refugee Day

In speeches to mark World Refugee Day (WRD), U.N. officials issued an appeal to the international community to do more to ease the plight of refugees.

"We…need to do more to combat the misunderstandings about refugees, often sown deliberately and driven by xenophobia and racism," said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Gutierrez, whose organization has named "Home" as the theme for this year's WRD.

 "And this is particularly important because the majority of the world's refugees now live in cities, and less and less in isolated refugee camps," he added.

"Crucially, we need to provide more support for education and essential life skills, so even if refugees have lost their homes, they haven't lost their futures," Gutierrez said.

"Help us help refugees find a place to call home."

Gutierrez was in Syria for this year's WRD, a country that the commissioner has praised for welcoming some 1 million Iraqi refugees.

"[Syria's] government and people typify this spirit of generosity" that we would like to see more of, the commissioner said.

The U.N. estimates that there are over 15 million refugees in the world today, nearly half of them in protracted situations.

In 2009, some 43 million people were forcibly displaced by conflict and persecution - the highest number since the mid-1990's.

Meanwhile, Catholic relief agency Caritas Internationalis has drawn particular attention to the plight of the world's 5 million women refugees, who they say are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses.

"The international community must show the political will to ensure protection as guaranteed in international treaties," said Martina Liebsch, Director of Policy for Caritas Internationalis.

According to Liebsh, providing better security in camps is essential, as well as making it easier for women to report acts of violence and have access to judicial procedures.

"Supporting livelihood programmes for women is a key factor," she added. "By giving a woman the ability to provide for herself and her family in a secure environment, they will not be forced to take risks by going outside camp."

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