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Number of people forced from their homes highest in 15 years

Published: Friday, June 22 2012 9:35 a.m. MDT

Wounded Syrian refugees help each other as they head toward an ambulance outside a makeshift hospital in a camp in the Turkish town of Yayladagi in Hatay province, Turkey, Wednesday, June 22, 2011. World Refugee Day was recently celebrated around the world and highlighted the 43.7 million people worldwide who were forced from their homes last year, the highest level in 15 years.

Burhan Ozbilici, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — More than 4.3 million displaced people worldwide are desperate for better conditions and better lives and have resorted to fleeing their countries' violence to live in ragged, congested tents or attempting to learn marketable skills to support their families.

June 20 marked the yearly celebration of World Refugee Day, which coincides with African Refugee Day and is intended to pique awareness around the world of the plights and struggles of refuges. The theme for this year was Refugees have no choice. You do.

"World Refugee Day was established by the United Nations to honor the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence," according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

"In its annual report this week, the U.N. Refugee Agency said a record 800,000 people were forced to flee across borders last year, more than at any time since 2000," according to the Voice of America. "The agency said those refugees were among the 4.3 million people who were displaced last year, largely because of humanitarian crises in Ivory Coast, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and other countries."

World Refugee Day provides a platform for world support and donation, which this year came in part from celebrity Angelina Jolie, who made a sizable donation for the cause.

"On June 20, the Oscar winner donated $100,000 to the U.N. Refugee Agency for its ongoing work with Syrian refugees," according to US Weekly. "Donations to the agency provide protection, shelter, clean water and life-saving assistance to refugees around the globe."

Despite efforts from refugee organizations and people like Jolie, some are saying more must be done for the refugees for them to overcome the tumultuous times in many of their countries.

"The world is failing these people, leaving them to wait out the instability back home and put their lives on hold indefinitely," said Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, in a written statement reported by CNN. "Developing countries cannot continue to bear this burden alone, and the industrialized world must address this imbalance."

In order for these refugees to be helped effectively, it may first be necessary for more world education about who these people are and what their conditions are like.

"I think there are two dramatic misperceptions (regarding refugees)," Guterres said. "The first is the idea that all refugees come into the north, into Europe, which is not true ... and the second perception is the inability to distinguish what economic migration is — people moving from one country to another because they want, and that's a very legitimate aspiration, a better life, and what refugees are — those that are fleeing the conflict and persecution, those that have no alternative but to flee from their country."

A recent compilation by the International Rescue Committee offers insights into some of the world's biggest refugee situations.

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