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World refugee total rises

July 12, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON —

Washington -- The number of refugees worldwide increased by nearly 2 million last year, driving the total to nearly 14 million, the highest level since 2001, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants reported.

The rise was due in part to a continued exodus from Iraq; 790,000 people left the country last year. Syria took in 449,000 and Jordan 250,000, the private refugees committee said.

Some 80,000 Iraqis went to Egypt, and the United States accepted 202 Iraqi refugees for resettlement.

At the end of 2006, Iraqis accounted for 1,687,800 of the nearly 14 million refugees worldwide. In Pakistan, the number of Afghan refugees rose to 2,161,500 after registration revealed an addition of nearly 1 million Afghans.

At the same time, the number of refugees around the world who are being "warehoused" -- denied a right to work and confined to camps -- for 10 years or more grew to 8.8 million.

The high total figure is not unprecedented. There were an estimated 15 million refugees in 2001 and 14.5 million in 2000.

Overall, the committee said, the situation for refugees worsened in all four categories it uses for measuring their well-being: physical protection, detention, freedom of movement and the right to earn a livelihood.

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