[via Information Aesthetics]
Every year, the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issues a report concerning the number of approximately 21,000,000 people worldwide falling under its mandate: as refugees who were forced to leave their countries due to war, political, racial or religious persecution, as internally displaced persons, or as repatriates on their way back home.
From Agamben's "We Refugees":
...the refugee is perhaps the only imaginable figure of the people in our day. At least until the process of the dissolution of the nation-state and its sovereignty has come to an end, the refugee is the sole category in which it is possible today to perceive the forms and limits of a political community to come. Indeed, it may be that if we want to be equal to the absolutely novel tasks that face us, we will have to abandon without misgivings the basic concepts in which we have represented political subjects up to now (man and citizen with their rights, but also the sovereign people, the worker, etc.) and to reconstruct our political philosophy beginning with this unique figure.
This is not the place to review the history of the various international commissions through which the states, the League of Nations, and later, the United Nations stempted to deal with the problem of refugees - from the Nansen Bureau for Russian and Armenian refugees (1921), to the High Commission for Refugees from Germany (1936), the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees (1938), and the International Refugee Organization of the United Nations (1946), up to the present High Commission for Refugees (1951) - whose activity, according to its statute, has only a "humanitarian and social," not political, character. The basic point is that every time refugees no longer represent individual cases but rather a mass phenomenon (as happened between the two wars, and has happened again now), both these organizations and the single states have proven, despite the solemn evocations of the inalienable rights of man, to be absolutely incapable not only of resolving the problem but also simply of dealing with it adequately. In this way the entire ques- tion was transferred into the hands of the police and of humanitarian organizations.