(Vatican Radio) The UN’s refugee agency says the number of people living as refugees from war or persecution last year exceeded 50 million, the highest number since the days of World War II. In a new report released on Friday to mark World Refugee Day, the UNHCR said the figure of 51.2 million refugees has been fuelled by conflicts in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, with Afghanistan still accounting for the world's largest number of refugees.
The UNHCR says it’s particularly concerned about those people who’ve been refugees for years, sometimes even decades. Around the world, over six million refugees from almost forgotten crises have spent the best part of their lives in camps or on the move from one country to another, with little hope of ever returning home.
Here in Rome, one of the organisations providing sanctuary and basic services for those fleeing war and conflict is the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center, located in the crypt of St Paul’s Within the Walls, close to the central Termini train station. For over 30 years a dedicated team of volunteers has been providing food, clothes, washing facilities and skills training for a couple of hundred men who come to use the center each weekday.
Jill Rios has worked with migrants and refugees in the US and currently serves as Settlement Coordinator for the center here in Rome. She told Philippa Hitchen more about the work and the longer terms goals of the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center: