- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

A report ranking the worst and best harbors for refugees branded Thailand, South Africa and the Gaza Strip as the most dire places for uprooted people, asylum seekers and foreigners.

The 2009 World Refugee Survey released Wednesday by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) recorded 13.6 million refugees in 2008, down from 14 million in 2007.

Eight million of them have lived for at least 10 years in “warehouse” conditions that deny refugees the right to work or move freely, said Lavinia Limon, president and chief executive of the private nonprofit group, which advocates refugee rights.

“The largest warehoused group is Palestinians, who entered that status when Truman was president 60 years ago. Tibetans in Nepal have been stuck in camps since Eisenhower was president, and Eritrean refugees have been warehoused since Nixon,” said Ms. Limon, who served as director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Clinton administration.

Malaysia, Kenya, Egypt and Turkey also topped the annual report’s list of places that violated international refugee rights law.

Since 2004, the survey has graded refugees’ physical protection, access to courts, freedom of movement and residence, and right to earn a livelihood. Yardsticks are based on the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention.

This is the first year the survey has published a list of the best places for refugees, said Merrill Smith, editor of the report.

Brazil, Ecuador and Costa Rica topped the list for the best treatment of refugees.

“Ecuador really tried to do the best they could with the influx of refugees they received from Colombia and embraced a fairly heroic project to document them,” Mr. Smith said.

The South American country launched a project in December to register 50,000 undocumented refugees, protect them from deportation and allow them to apply for work and travel freely throughout the country.

Home to 160,000 refugees, the United States scored well on allowing immigrants the freedom to move and work, but received an “F” for physical protection.

“This was based mostly on the fact that in Florida in 2008, 1,600 Cubans and 2,200 Haitians were detained or deported without being asked if they were asylum seekers,” said Ben Sanders, assistant editor of the report.

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