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The Catholic Church has a long and rich history of promoting and protecting the dignity and basic rights of refugees and migrants throughout the world. Catholic Relief Services was originally established to respond to the needs of uprooted peoples and a significant aspect of our work remains in this area. CRS is currently responding to the needs of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), immigrants and victims of human trafficking.

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Poverty, injustice and armed conflict continue to forcibly displace millions of people across the globe:

  • Refugees: An estimated 9 million people worldwide were considered refugees in 2004, the largest populations originating from Afghanistan and Sudan. The number of refugees has declined along with a decrease in international armed conflicts. However, the majority of refugees in the world today live with few prospects for long term solutions to their plight. Refugees often are unable to return in safety to their own homes, integrate into neighboring countries or access the declining option for asylum and refugee resettlement in traditional refugee-receiving nations.
  • Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): In 2005, there were an estimated 23.7 million internally displaced persons worldwide, with the highest levels in Sudan, Colombia, Uganda and the DRC. IDPs are similar to refugees, in terms of the reasons for displacement and hardships experienced — but they remain within their own country of origin. IDPs are particularly vulnerable , as they often remain in close proximity to armed conflicts and groups that caused their displacement, and there are few international legal or institutional systems in place to respond to their protection needs.
  • Economic Migrants: Increasingly in the countries where CRS works economic migration is a necessity rather than a choice, as rapid economic change has eliminated employment and at times basic survival alternatives. While economic migration is a global issue, it is an acute concern in Latin America as millions move within and out of the region. Globally, the expansion of restrictive migration policies and increasingly harsh enforcement measures has resulted in the criminalization of migration, militarization of borders and a growing violation of the most fundamental rights of immigrants.
  • Human Trafficking: The most egregious recent development — trafficking in people — has exploded on the scene in recent years. A significant proportion of those who end up being trafficked originate as economic migrants, refugees and IDPs with few legal alternatives to migration. Human trafficking is a $10-billion-plus growth industry with conservative estimates ranging from 700,000 to 2 million people (primarily women and children) trafficked into labor slavery or sexual exploitation annually. For more information about trafficking issues, click here.

CRS supports both the right of people to remain in their country in safety and with conditions worthy of human dignity as well as the protection and promotion of the rights of those who have little alternative but to migrate or flee their homes. CRS works with local church and nongovernmental organizations through development, emergency, peacebuilding and human rights programming, as well as policy and advocacy efforts, to address many of the root causes of displacement, as well as to respond to the needs of uprooted people.

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