World Refugee Day – Zimbabwe, South Africa and Iraq

[Originally published here on the WITNESS Hub blog.]

There are 16 million refugees and 51 million internally displaced people worldwide, according to the UNHCR’s latest figures [pdf].

That number is so extraordinary, so egregious, that I find it personally difficult to absorb – but this World Refugee Day, there seems to be much more imagery available showing the realities and individual stories of refugees.  This shows the impact it has not only on the individuals affected, but their families and communities, their own and neighbouring countries, on economies and identities, and most graphically, their personal safety and security – this year’s World Refugee Day takes “Protection” as its theme.

Zimbabwe is a particular focus.  The Times has this strong set of images from the recent rioting in South Africa, showing the aftermath for Zimbabwean immigrants.  Human Rights Watch has a similarly powerful photo essay from South Africa, and calls on the South African government to halt deportations of Zimbabweans. And with reports of torture and murder within Zimbabwe continuing, these harrowing images, some taken by Peter Oborne of the UK’s Daily Mail (seen in this BBC report), testify to conditions within Zimbabwe that are precipitating an even worse crisis of internal displacement.

A source I hadn’t come across before is a series of blogs and videos from Ghetto Radio‘s network of correspondents, including this interview from the streets of Johannesburg with a Somali woman who came to South Africa as a refugee, but was left reeling after the recent anti-immigrant violence:

Other perspectives come from DakarNairobi and Lagos.

Elsewhere, Refugees International and Amnesty International throw their spotlight on the ongoing crisis in Iraq, where “an estimated 4.7 million have been displaced both within and outside [the country].”  Reuters has posted a World Refugee Day special here, but I couldn’t seem to get the video to load…

And finally, UNHCR’s Refugee Film Festival runs from today for a week in Tokyo, but details of all the films in the festival online here.

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