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U.N. Official: Nations Failing Refugees

June 28, 2005

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The world’s governments are failing refugees, especially in Africa, where a lack of funding has led to family violence and a host of other problems, the top U.N. refugee official said Monday.

Antonio Guterres, the new U.N. high commissioner for refugees, told reporters there were a range of crises that deserve attention _ from displaced Uzbeks and North Koreans to Iranians and the Palestinians _ but it’s Africa where the refugees’ plight is most dire.

``Almost all if not all our operations in Africa are underfunded, and in some circumstances extremely underfunded,″ Guterres said. ``In many of our camps, the food rations are quite below what is necessary.″

Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, said underfunding led to a host of problems, including increased prostitution, family violence and a drop in school attendance.

``My appeal would be for the international community to understand that this is something that is not acceptable both politically and morally,″ he said.

Guterres said other issues would also take up much of his time in the coming months.

He said he will seek a ``constructive dialogue″ with China about refugees from North Korea. China has been criticized for forcibly returning North Koreans to their homeland, where there have been reports of public executions of some of the returnees to deter others from leaving.

Guterres also urged nations not to shut out refugees as they fight the war on terror, saying they must not take the easy way out.

``The easy way is to define them as illegal immigrants and to kick them out and to send them back to their countries of origin,″ he said. ``My appeal is for them to respect international law.″

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