At the end of 2008 there were 16 million people seeking refuge from war and persecution beyond the borders of their native countries and a further 26 million were displaced within their home countries. The latest armed conflicts in Sri Lanka and Pakistan alone have increased this figure by over two million in 2009. Providing emergency assistance and protection for refugees and displaced persons presents a major challenge for the international community.
Federal Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued the following statement on World Refugee Day today (19 June) in Brussels:
"We cannot be indifferent to the desperation of 42 million people who have fled their homes. Germany will continue to do its part to ensure that the people who have been displaced by war and violence are protected from persecution and receive the assistance they need to survive with dignity. The aim of our policies, however, must be to counter the causes and effects of flight and displacement. We are taking an active approach to this through programmes in the areas of crisis prevention, disarmament and crisis management."
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is an important partner for the German Government in providing assistance for refugees. Germany is the eighth-largest donor to the UNHCR. Some 35 million euro were made available to the refugee aid organization in 2008. In 2009 the UNHCR has received over 20 million euro from the Federal Foreign Office's budget alone for, among other things, humanitarian aid projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as for Somali refugees in Kenya and people displaced by the war in Iraq who are living in Syria, Jordan and Iraq itself.
The Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI) was launched in 1992. DAFI is a programme implemented by the UNHCR and financed exclusively by Germany, with 3.9 million euro in 2009, which promotes academic training for refugees. This year alone, DAFI is providing a university education for over 1,000 young refugees in their host countries, thereby giving them an excellent opportunity to return to a normal life. This also equips the scholarship recipients with the skills to contribute to the reconstruction of their home countries later in places like Afghanistan or Africa.