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Under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is a person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country.The concept of a refugee was expanded by the Convention's 1967 Protocol and by regional conventions in Africa and Latin America to include persons who had fled war or other violence in their home country.

Refugee was defined as a legal group in response to the large numbers of people fleeing Eastern Europe following World War II. The lead international agency coordinating refugee protection is the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which counted 8,400,000 refugees worldwide at the beginning of 2006. This was the lowest number since 1980. The major exception is the 4,600,000 Palestinian refugees under the authority of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), who are the only group to be granted refugee status to the descendants of refugees according to the above definition. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants gives the world total as 62,000,000 refugees and estimates there are over 34,000,000 displaced by war, including internally displaced persons, who remain within the same national borders. The majority of refugees who leave their country seek asylum in countries neighboring their country of nationality. The "durable solutions" to refugee populations, as defined by UNHCR and governments, are: voluntary repatriation to the country of origin; local integration into the country of asylum; and resettlement to a third country.

As of December 31, 2005, the largest source countries of refugees are Afghanistanmarker, Iraqmarker, Myanmarmarker, Sudanmarker, and the Palestinian Territoriesmarker. The country with the largest number of IDP is Sudan, with over 5 million. As of 2006, with 800,000 refugees and IDPs, Azerbaijanmarker had the highest per capita IDP population in the world.


The concept of the meaning that a person who fled into a holy place could not be harmed without inviting divine retribution, was understood by the ancient Greeks and ancient Egyptians. However, the right to seek asylum in a church or other holy place, was first codified in law by King Ethelbert of Kent in about 600 A.D. Similar laws were implemented throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. The related concept of political exile also has a long history: Ovid was sent to Tomismarker and Voltaire was exiled to Englandmarker. Through the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, nations recognized each others' sovereignty. However, it was not until the advent of romantic nationalism in late eighteenth century Europe that nationalism became prevalent enough that the phrase "country of nationality" became meaningful and people crossing borders were required to provide identification.
The term "refugee" is sometimes applied to people who may have fit the definition, if the 1951 Convention was applied retroactively. There are many candidates. For example, after the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685 outlawed Protestantism in Francemarker, hundreds of thousands of Huguenots fled to Englandmarker, the Netherlandsmarker, Switzerlandmarker, South Africa, Germanymarker and Prussia. Repeated waves of pogroms swept Eastern Europe, propelling mass Jewish emigration (more than 2 million Russian Jews emigrated in the period 1881–1920). Since the 19th century, an exodus by the large portion of Muslim peoples (who are termed "Muhacir" under a general definition) from the Balkans, Caucasus, Crimeamarker and Cretemarker, took refuge in present-day Turkeymarker and moulded the country's fundamental features. The Balkan Wars of 1912–1913 caused 800,000 people to leave their homes. Various groups of people were officially designated refugees beginning in World War I.

The first international coordination on refugee affairs was by the League of Nations' High Commission for Refugees. The Commission, led by Fridtjof Nansen, was set up in 1921 to assist the approximately 1,500,000 persons who fled the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent civil war (1917–1921), most of them aristocrats fleeing the Communist government. In 1923, the mandate of the Commission was expanded to include the more than one million Armenian who left Turkishmarker Asia Minormarker in 1915 and 1923 due to a series of events now known as the Armenian Genocide. Over the next several years, the mandate was expanded to include Assyrian and Turkish refugees. In all of these cases, a refugee was defined as a person in a group for which the League of Nations had approved a mandate, as opposed to a person to whom a general definition applied.

The 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey involved some two million people, most forcibly made refugees and de jure denaturalized from homelands of centuries or millennia, in a treaty promoted and overseen by the international community as part of the Treaty of Lausanne.

The U.S. Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act in 1921, followed by the Immigration Act of 1924. The Immigration Act of 1924 was aimed at further restricting the Southern and Eastern Europeans, especially Jews, Italians and Slavs, who had begun to enter the country in large numbers beginning in the 1890s. Most of the European refugees (principally Jews and Slavs) fleeing the Stalin, Nazis and World War II were barred from coming to the United States.

In 1930, the Nansen International Office for Refugees was established as a successor agency to the Commission. Its most notable achievement was the Nansen passport, a passport for refugees, for which it was awarded the 1938 Nobel Peace Prize. The Nansen Office was plagued by inadequate funding, rising numbers of refugees and the refusal by League members to let the Office assist their own citizens. Regardless, it managed to convince fourteen nations to sign the Refugee Convention of 1933, a weak human right instrument, and assist over one million refugees.

The rise of Nazism led to such a severe rise in refugees from Germany that in 1933 the League created a High Commission for Refugees Coming from Germany. The mandate of this High Commission was subsequently expanded to include persons from Austriamarker and Sudetenland. 150,000 Czechs were displaced after October 1, 1938, when the German army entered the border regions of Czechoslovakiamarker surrendered in accordance with the Munich Agreement.

On 31 December 1938, both the Nansen Office and High Commission were dissolved and replaced by the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees under the Protection of the League. This coincided with the flight of several hundred thousand Spanish Republicans to France after their loss to the Nationalists in 1939 in the Spanish Civil War.

World War II and UNHCR

The conflict and political instability during World War II led to massive amounts of forced migration (see World War II evacuation and expulsion). In 1943, the Allies created the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) to provide aid to areas liberated from Axis powers, including parts of Europe and Chinamarker. This included returning over seven million refugees, then commonly referred to as displaced persons or DPs, to their country of origin and setting up displaced persons camps for one million refugees who refused to be repatriated.

In the last months of World War II some five million German civilians from the German provinces of East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia fled the onslaught of the Red Army and became refugees in Mecklenburg, Brandenburg and Saxony. After the capitulation of the Wehrmacht in May 1945 the Allies occupied Germany in the borders as they were on 31 December 1937 (Berlin declaration of 5 June 1945), but since the spring of 1945 the Poles had begun expelling the remaining German population (ethnic cleansing) and by the time the Allies met in Potsdam on 17 July 1945 Potsdam Conference, a chaotic refugee situation faced the occupying powers, who, pursuant to Article IX of the Potsdam protocol of 2 August 1945 provisionally placed one fourth of Germany's territory under Polish administration; pursuant to article XIII of the protocol, the remaining German populations in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary were to be transferred West in an "orderly and humane" manner. Although not approved by Allies at Potsdam, hundreds of thousands of ethnic German living in Yugoslavia and Romania were deported to slave labour in the Soviet Union and subsequently expelled to occupied Germany Allied-occupied Germany and subsequently to the German Democratic Republic, Austria and the Federal Republic of Germany. This entailed the largest population transfer in history. In all 15 million Germans were affected, and more than two million perished expulsion of the German population. (See German exodus from Eastern Europe.) Between the end of World War II and the erection of the Berlin Wallmarker in 1961, more than 563,700 refugees from East Germanymarker traveled to West Germanymarker for asylum from the Soviet occupation.

Also, millions of former Russian citizens were forcefully repatriated (against their will) into the USSR. On 11 February 1945, at the conclusion of the Yalta Conferencemarker, the United Statesmarker and United Kingdommarker signed a Repatriation Agreement with the USSR. The interpretation of this Agreement resulted in the forcible repatriation of all Soviets regardless of their wishes. When the war ended in May 1945, Britishmarker and U.S.marker civilian authorities ordered their military forces in Europe to deport to the Soviet Unionmarker millions of former residents of the USSR, including numerous persons who had left Russia and established different citizenship many years before. The forced repatriation operations took place from 1945 to 1947.

At the end of the World War II, there were more than 5 million "displaced persons" from the Soviet Union in the Western Europe. About 3 million had been forced laborers (Ostarbeiters) in Germany and occupied territories. The Soviet POWs and the Vlasov men were put under the jurisdiction of SMERSH (Death to Spies). Of the 5.7 million Soviet prisoners of war captured by the Germans, 3.5 million had died while in German captivity by the end of the war. The survivors on their return to the USSR were treated as traitors (see Order No. 270). Over 1.5 million surviving Red Army soldiers imprisoned by the Germans were sent to the Gulag.

Polandmarker and Soviet Ukraine conducted population exchanges – Poles that resided east of the established Poland-Soviet border were deported to Poland (ca. 2,100,000 persons) (see Repatriation of Poles) and Ukrainians that resided west of the established Poland-Soviet Union border were deported to Soviet Ukraine. Population transfer to Soviet Ukraine occurred from September 1944 to May 1946 (ca. 450,000 persons) (see Repatriation of Ukrainians). Some Ukrainians (ca. 200,000 persons) left southeast Poland more or less voluntarily (between 1944 and 1945).

The UNRRA was shut down in 1947, at which time it was taken over by the newly instituted International Refugee Organization. While the handover was originally planned to take place at the beginning of 1947, it did not occur until July 1947. The International Refugee Organization was a temporary organization of the United Nations (UN), which itself had been founded in 1945, with a mandate to largely finish the UNRRA's work of repatriating or resettling European refugees. It was dissolved in 1952 after resettling about one million refugees. The definition of a refugee at this time was an individual with either a Nansen passport or a "Certificate of Eligibility" issued by the International Refugee Organization.


Headquartered in Genevamarker, Switzerlandmarker, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (established December 14, 1950) protects and supports refugees at the request of a government or the United Nations and assists in their return or resettlement. All refugees in the world are under the UNHCR mandate except Palestinian Arabs who fled the future Jewish statemarker between 1947 and 1948 (see below). However, Palestinians who fled the Palestinian territories after 1948 (for example, during the 1967 six day war) are under the jurisdiction of the UNHCR.

UNHCR provides protection and assistance not only to refugees, but also to other categories of displaced or needy people. These include asylum seekers, refugees who have returned home but still need help in rebuilding their lives, local civilian communities directly affected by the movements of refugees, stateless people and so-called internally displaced people (IDPs). IDPs are civilians who have been forced to flee their homes, but who have not reached a neighboring country and therefore, unlike refugees, are not protected by international law and may find it hard to receive any form of assistance. As the nature of war has changed in the last few decades, with more and more internal conflicts replacing interstate wars, the number of IDPs has increased significantly to an estimated 5 million people worldwide.

It succeeded the earlier International Refugee Organization and the even earlier United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (which itself succeeded the League of Nations' Commissions for Refugees).

UNHCR was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and 1981. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.

Many celebrities are associated with the agency as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors, currently including Angelina Jolie, Giorgio Armani and others. The individual who has raised the most money in benefit performances and volunteer work on behalf of UNHCR was Luciano Pavarotti[7453].

UNHCR's mandate has gradually been expanded to include protecting and providing humanitarian assistance to what it describes as other persons "of concern," including internally-displaced persons (IDPs) who would fit the legal definition of a refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol, the 1969 Organization for African Unity Convention, or some other treaty if they left their country, but who presently remain in their country of origin. UNHCR thus has missions in Colombiamarker, Democratic Republic of the Congomarker, Serbia and Montenegro and Côte d'Ivoiremarker to assist and provide services to IDPs.

As of January 1, 2006 there are 20,751,900 refugees in the world.Asia – 8,603,600Africa – 5,169,300Europe – 3,666,700Latin America and Caribbean – 2,513,000North America – 716,800Oceania – 82,500

Asylum seekers

Refugees are a subgroup of the broader category of displaced persons. Environmental refugees (people displaced because of environment problems such as drought) are not included in the definition of "refugee" under international law, as well as internally displaced people. According to international refugee law, a refugee is someone who seeks refuge in a foreign country because of war and violence, or out of fear of persecution "on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group" (to use the terminology from U.S. law).

Until a request for refuge has been accepted, the person is referred to as an asylum seeker. Only after the recognition of the asylum seeker's protection needs, he or she is officially referred to as a refugee and enjoys refugee status, which carries certain rights and obligations according to the legislation of the receiving country.

The practical determination of whether a person is a refugee or not is most often left to certain government agencies within the host country. This can lead to a situation where the country will neither recognize the refugee status of the asylum seekers nor see them as legitimate migrants and treat them as illegal aliens.

On the other hand, fraudulent requests in an environment of lax enforcement could lead to improper classification as refugee, resulting in the diversion of resources from those with a genuine need. The percentage of asylum/refugee seekers who do not meet the international standards of special-needs refugee, and for whom resettlement is deemed proper, varies from country to country. Failed asylum applicants are most often deported, sometimes after imprisonment or detention, as in the United Kingdom.

A claim for asylum may also be made onshore, usually after making an unauthorized arrival. Some governments are tolerant and accepting of onshore asylum claims; other governments will not only refuse such claims, but may actually arrest or detain those who attempt to seek asylum.

Non-governmental organizations concerned with refugees and asylum seekers have pointed out difficulties for displaced persons to seek asylum in industrialized countries. As their immigration policy often focuses on the fight of irregular migration and the strengthening of border controls it deters displaced persons from entering territory in which they could lodge an asylum claim. The lack of opportunities to legally access the asylum procedures can force asylum seekers to undertake often expensive and hazardous attempts at illegal entry.

Refugee resettlement

State Quota (2001) Year established
United Statesmarker 80,000 1980
Canadamarker 11,000 1978
Australia 10,000 Unknown
Norwaymarker 1,500 Unknown
Swedenmarker 1,375 1950
New Zealandmarker 750 1979
Finlandmarker 750 1979
Denmarkmarker 517 1989
Netherlandsmarker 500 1984
Resettlement involves the assisted movement of refugees who are unable to return home to safe third countries. The UNHCR has traditionally seen resettlement as the least preferable of the "durable solutions" to refugee situations. However, in April 2000 the then UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, stated:

UNHCR referred more than 121,000 refugees for consideration for resettlement in 2008. This was the highest number for 15 years. In 2007, 98,999 people were referred. UNHCR referred 33,512 refugees from Iraqmarker, 30,388 from Burma/Myanmarmarker and 23,516 from Bhutanmarker in 2008.

In terms of resettlement departures, in 2008, 65,548 refugees were resettled in 26 countries, up from 49,868 in 2007. The largest number of UNHCR-assisted departures were from Thailandmarker (16,807), Nepalmarker (8,165), Syriamarker (7,153), Jordanmarker (6,704) and Malaysiamarker (5,865). Note that these are the countries that refugees were resettled from, not their countries of origin.

A number of third countries run specific resettlement programmes in co-operation with UNHCR. The size of these programmes is shown in the table. The largest programmes are run by the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker and Australia. A number of European countries run smaller schemes and in 2004 the United Kingdommarker established its own scheme, known as the Gateway Protection Programme with an initial quota of 500 (2004), which rose to 750 in the financial year 2009/09.

In September 2009, the European Commissionmarker unveiled plans for new Joint EU Resettlement Programme. The scheme would involve EU member states deciding together each year which refugees should be given priority. Member states would receive €4,000 from the European Refugee Fund per refugee resettled.

Displaced women and children

An estimated 80% of refugees are women and children. They often carry the heaviest burden of survival for themselves and their families. Women and adolescent girls in refugee settings are especially vulnerable to exploitation, rape, abuse and other forms of gender-based violence.

Children and youth constitute approximately 50 percent of all refugees worldwide. They are the deliberate targets of abuse, and easy prey to military recruitment and abduction. They typically miss out on years of education, particularly the younger ones. More than 43 million children living in conflict-affected areas don’t have a chance to go to school.

Girls in particular face significant obstacles accessing education. Families who lack funds for school fees, uniforms, books, etc. are often influenced by cultural norms to prioritize education for boys over girls. Girls are typically pulled out of school before boys, often to help with traditional care-giving/work roles including care for younger siblings, gathering firewood and cooking. Early or forced marriage can also derail a girl’s education.

Without an education, refugee women and youth often struggle to support themselves and their families. With refugees displaced for longer periods of time than ever before (68% of all refugees are now displaced for an average of 17 years), the ability for refugees—particularly women and youth— to earn a living and sustain themselves and their families (“livelihoods”) is becoming even more critical. Livelihoods are vital for the social, emotional and economic well-being of displaced persons and are a key way to increase the safety of displaced women and adolescents. Lack of education, minimal job prospects, and disproportionate responsibility at home all limit the livelihood opportunities of women and youth.

On occasion, people who have been uprooted from their homes come to the United States in search of safe haven. They may be detained by the U.S. government, often until their asylum cases are decided—which can amount to days, weeks, months or even years. Many of those detained are women and children who seek asylum in the United States after fleeing from gender- and age-related persecution. Sometimes the children are alone, having fled abusive families or other human rights abuses. Detained women asylum seekers are also particularly vulnerable to abuse in detention. Women and children asylum seekers who reach the United States are often imprisoned and at times subjected to inhumane conditions, abuse and poor medical care, and denied legal representation and other services.

Refugee advocacy organizations, including the Women’s Commission For Refugee Women and Children, focus their programs and advocacy specifically on the needs of refugee women, children and youth. There is also a micro-finance program through the Chand Collection that supports women in refugee camps creating their own small businesses of handicrafts.

Refugee law

Under international law, refugees are individuals who:
  • are outside their country of nationality or habitual residence;
  • have a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and
  • are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.

Refugee law encompasses both customary law, peremptory norms, and international legal instruments. These include:

Refugee camps

A refugee camp is a place built by governments or NGO (such as the ICRC) to receive refugees. People may stay in these camps, receiving emergency food and medical aid, until it is safe to return to their homes or until they get retrieved by other people outside the camps. In some cases, often after several years, other countries decide it will never be safe to return these people, and they are resettled in "third countries," away from the border they crossed. However, more often than not, refugees are not resettled. In the mean time, they are at risk for disease, child soldiering, terrorist recruitment, and physical and sexual violence.

Globally, about 17 countries (Australia, Beninmarker, Brazilmarker, Burkina Fasomarker, Canadamarker, Chilemarker, Denmarkmarker, Finlandmarker, Icelandmarker, the Republic of Irelandmarker, Mexicomarker, the Netherlandsmarker, New Zealandmarker, Norwaymarker, Swedenmarker, the United Kingdommarker, and the United Statesmarker [7454]) regularly accept quota refugees from places such as refugee camps. Usually these are people who have escaped war. In recent years, most quota refugees have come from Iranmarker, Afghanistanmarker, Iraqmarker, Liberiamarker, Somaliamarker, and Sudanmarker, which have been in various wars and revolutions, and the former Yugoslavia, due to the Yugoslav wars.

According to Agence France-Presse, Japanmarker accepted just ten people into the country as refugees in 2003, the lowest number since it let in just one in 1997. Despite denying them refugee status, Japan accepted 16 more people on special humanitarian grounds during the year—also the lowest figure since 1997, when it accepted three. In contrast, 336 people applied for refugee status in Japan over the year, the highest figure in two years. Various international organizations, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, have asked Japan to accept more refugees.

The United Statesmarker took in 85,010 for resettlement, according to the UNHCR. New Zealandmarker accepted 1,140 refugees in 1999.

Boat people

The term "boat people" came into common use in the 1970s with the mass exodus of Vietnamese refugees following the Vietnam War.It is a widely used form of migration for people migrating from Cubamarker, Haitimarker, Moroccomarker, Vietnammarker or Albaniamarker. They often risk their lives on dangerously crude and overcrowded boats to escape oppression or poverty in their home nations. Events resulting from the Vietnam War led many people in Cambodiamarker, Laosmarker, and especially Vietnammarker to become refugees in the late 1970s and 1980s. In 2001, 353 asylum seekers sailing from Indonesiamarker to Australia drowned when their vessel sank.

The main danger to a boat person is that the boat he or she is sailing in may actually be anything that floats and is large enough for passengers. Although such makeshift craft can result in tragedy, in 2003 a small group of 5 Cuban refugees attempted (unsuccessfully, but un-harmed) to reach Floridamarker in a 1950s pickup truck made buoyant by oil barrels strapped to its sides.

Boat people are frequently a source of controversy in the nation they seek to immigrate to, such as the United Statesmarker, New Zealandmarker, Germanymarker, Francemarker, Russiamarker, Canadamarker, Italymarker, Japanmarker, South Koreamarker, Spainmarker and Australia. Boat people are often forcibly prevented from landing at their destination, such as under Australia's Pacific Solution (which operated from 2001 until 2008), or they are subjected to mandatory detention after their arrival. Mandatory detention in Australia will cease, announced by the Rudd Labor government in July 2008, unless the person claiming asylum is deemed to pose a risk to the wider community, such as thosty or health risks.

Historical and contemporary refugee crises

Refugee situations in the Middle East

Palestinian refugees

Following the 1948 proclamation of the State of Israelmarker, the first Arab-Israeli War began. Many Palestinians had already become refugees, and the Palestinian Exodus continued through the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and after the armistice that ended it. The great majority have remained refugees for generations as they were not permitted to return to their homes or to settle in the Arab countries where they lived. The refugee situation and the presence of numerous refugee camps continues to be a point of contention in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The final estimate of refugee numbers was 711,000 according to the United Nations Conciliation Commission. Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their descendants do not come under the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, but under the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which created its own criteria for refugee classification. From the UNRWA web site:
Palestine refugees are persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.
UNRWA's services are available to all those living in its area of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance.
UNRWA's definition of a refugee also covers the descendants of persons who became refugees in 1948.

As such they are the only refugee population legally defined to include descendants of refugees, as well as others who might otherwise be considered internally displaced persons.

As of December 2005, the World Refugee Survey of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants estimates the total number of Palestinian refugees to be 2,966,100.

Jewish refugees

Between the first and second world wars, Jewish immigration to Palestine was encouraged by the nascent Zionist movement but was restricted by the British Mandate government in Palestine. In Europe, Nazi persecution culminated in the Holocaust and the mass murder of many European Jews.The Evian Conference, Bermuda Conference, and others failed to resolve the problem of finding a home for large numbers of Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe. Following its formation in 1948, according to 1947 UN Partition Plan,Israel adopted the Law of Return, granting Israeli citizenship to any Jewish immigrant. Approximately 700,000 refugees flooded into the country, and were housed in tent cities called ma'abarot. After the dissolution of the USSRmarker, a second surge of 700,000 Russian Jews fled to Israel between 1990 and 1995.

Jews have lived in what are now Arab states at least since the Babylonian captivity (597 BCE). The refusal of the Arab world to accept the existence of a Jewish state led to increased discrimination and violence against the Jews. In 1948, the Arab League declared the Jews enemy citizens. Jewish bank accounts and property was confiscated, Jews were arrested and fired from their jobs, and synagogues were attacked. In the early years after Israeli independence the number of Jews in Arab countries fell steeply: in Yemen, from 55,000 to 4,000; in Iraq from 135,000 to 6,000; in Aden from 8,000 to 800; in Egypt from 80,000 to 50,000; in Libya from 38,000 to 4,000; and in Syria from 30,000 to 5,000.

According to official Arab statistics, 856,000 Jews left their homes in Arab countries from 1948 until the early 1970s. Some 600,000 resettled in Israel. Their descendants, and those of Iranian and Turkish Jews, now number 3.06 million of Israel's 5.4 to 5.8 million Jewish citizens. The plight of the Jews in Arab lands worsened following the 1967 Six-Day War, prompting the exodus of most of the remaining Jewish population. Very few Jews live in Arab countries today.

In 2007, similar resolutions (H.Res.185 and S.Res.85) were proposed to the US Senate and Congress, to:
Make clear that the United States Government supports the position that, as an integral part of any comprehensive peace, the issue of refugees and the mass violations of human rights of minorities in Arab and Muslim countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf must be resolved in a manner that includes (A) consideration of the legitimate rights of all refugees displaced from Arab and Muslim countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf; and (B) recognition of the losses incurred by Jews, Christians, and other minority groups as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
These resolutions were discussed on July 19 2007 at the bicameral Congressional Human Rights Caucus in preparation for voting.

African refugees in Israel

Since 2003, an estimated 10,000 non-Jewish immigrants from various African countries have illegally entered Israel . Some 600 refugees from the Darfurmarker region of Sudanmarker have been granted refugee status. Another 2,000 refugees from the conflict between Eritreamarker and Ethiopiamarker have been granted temporary resident status on humanitarian grounds. Israel prefers not to recognize them as refugees so as not to offend Eritrea and Ethiopia. The remaining immigrants live in Israel illegally. In 2007, Israel deported 48 refugees back to Egypt after they succeeded in crossing the border, of which twenty were deported back to Sudan by Egyptian authorities, according to Amnesty International. In August 2008 the Israel Defense Forces deported at least another 91 African asylum seekers at the border. Throughout this year, Egyptian police have shot dead 20 African asylum seekers attempting to enter Israel.

Refugees from the Algerian War

The Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962) uprooted more than 2 million Algerians, who were forced to relocate in French camps or to flee to Morocco, Tunisia, and into the Algerian hinterland.

European-descended population,Pieds-Noirs, accounted for 10.4% of the total population of Algeriamarker in 1962. In just a few months in 1962, 900,000 of them fled the country in the most massive relocation of population to Europe since the World War II. A motto used in the FLN propaganda designating the Pied-noirs community was "Suitcase or coffin" ("La valise ou le cercueil").


Jordan has one of the world's largest immigrant population with some sources putting the immigrant percentage to being 60%. Jordan's religious toleration, political stability, and economic prosperity has made Jordan attractive to those fleeing violence and persecution. Jordan also has a higher quality of life compared to other countries in the region with high literacy rates, excellent healthcare infrastructure, and a relatively liberal social and economic environment.Jordan has a large immigrant population. Palestinian refugees number almost half of Jordan's population, however they have assimilated into Jordanian society. Iraqi refugees number between 750,000 and 1 million with most living in Amman. Jordan also has Armenian, Chechen, and Circassian minorities.


It is estimated that some 900,000 people, representing one-fifth of the pre-war population, were displaced from their homes during the Lebanese Civil War (1975–90).

The 2006 Lebanon War displaced approximately one million Lebanese and approximately 500,000 Israelismarker, although most were able to return to their homes. Lebanese desire to emigrate has increased since the war. Over a fifth of Shias, a quarter of Sunnis, and nearly half of Maronites have expressed the desire to leave Lebanon. Nearly a third of such Maronites have already submitted visa applications to foreign embassies, and another 60,000 Christians have already fled, as of April 2007. Lebanese Christians are concerned that their influence is waning, fear the apparent rise of radical Islam, and worry of potential Sunni-Shia rivalry.

Western Sahara

It is estimated that more than 150,000 Sahrawis – people from the disputed territory of Western Saharamarker – have lived in five large refugee camps near Tindouf in the Algerian part of the Sahara Desert since 1975. The UNHCR and WFP are presently engaged in supporting what they describe as the "90,000 most vulnerable" refugees, giving no estimate for total refugee numbers.

Nagorno Karabakh

The Nagorno Karabakh conflict has resulted in the displacement of 528,000 (this figure does not include new born children of these IDP) Azerbaijanis from Armenian occupied territories including Nagorno Karabakh, and 220,000 Azeris and 18,000 Kurds fled from Armeniamarker to Azerbaijan from 1988 to 1989. 280,000 persons—virtually all ethnic Armenians—fled Azerbaijanmarker during the 1988–1993 war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. By the time both Azerbaijan and Armenia had finally agreed to a ceasefire in 1994, an estimated 17,000 people had been killed, 50,000 had been injured, and over a million had been displaced.


Between 1984 and 1999, the PKK and the Turkishmarker military engaged in open war, and much of the countryside in the southeast was depopulated, with Kurdish civilians moving to local defensible centers such as Diyarbakırmarker, Vanmarker, and Şırnakmarker, as well as to the cities of western Turkey and even to western Europe. The causes of the depopulation included PKK atrocities against Kurdish clans they could not control, the poverty of the southeast, and the Turkish state's military operations. Human Rights Watch has documented many instances where the Turkish military forcibly evacuated villages, destroying houses and equipment to prevent the return of the inhabitants. An estimated 3,000 Kurdish villages in Turkey were virtually wiped from the map, representing the displacement of more than 378,000 people. HRW Turkey Reports

See also: Report D612, October, 1994, "Forced Displacement of Ethnic Kurds" (A Human Rights Watch Publication).

Refugees from the Iraq wars

The Iran–Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the first Gulf War and subsequent conflicts all generated hundreds of thousands if not millions of refugees. Iran also provided asylum for 1,400,000 Iraqi refugees who had been uprooted as a result of the Persian Gulf War (1990–91). At least one million Iraqi Kurds were displaced during the Al-Anfal Campaign (1986–1989).

The current Iraq war has generated millions of refugees and internally displaced persons. As of 2007 more Iraqis have lost their homes and become refugees than the population of any other country. Over 4,700,000 people, more than 16% of the Iraqi population, have become uprooted. Of these, about 2 million have fled Iraq and flooded other countries, and 2.7 million are estimated to be refugees inside Iraq, with nearly 100,000 Iraqis fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month. Only 1% of the total Iraqi displaced population was estimated to be in the Western countries.

Roughly 40% of Iraq's middle class is believed to have fled, the U.N. said. Most are fleeing systematic persecution and have no desire to return. All kinds of people, from university professors to bakers, have been targeted by militias, insurgents and criminals. An estimated 331 school teachers were slain in the first four months of 2006, according to Human Rights Watch, and at least 2,000 Iraqi doctors have been killed and 250 kidnapped since the 2003 U.S. invasion. Iraqi refugees in Syriamarker and Jordanmarker live in impoverished communities with little international attentionto their plight and little legal protection. In Syria alone an estimated 50,000 Iraqi girls and women, many of them widows, are forced into prostitution just to survive.

According to Washingtonmarker based Refugees International, out of the 4.2 million refugees fewer than 800 have been allowed into the US since the 2003 invasion. Swedenmarker had accepted 18,000 and Australia had resettled almost 6,000. By 2006 Sweden had granted protection to more Iraqis than all the other EU Member States combined. However, and following repeated unanswered calls to its European partners for greater solidarity, July 2007 saw Sweden introduce a more restrictive policy towards Iraqi asylum seekers, which is expected to reduce the recognition rate in 2008.

As of September 2007 Syriamarker had decided to implement a strict visa regime to limit the number of Iraqis entering the country at up to 5,000 per day, cutting the only accessible escape route for thousands of refugees fleeing the civil war in Iraq. A government decree that took effect on 10 September 2007 bars Iraqi passport holders from entering Syria except for businessmen and academics. Until then, the Syria was the only country that had resisted strict entry regulations for Iraqis.

Religious minorities in the Middle East

Although Assyrian Christians represent less than 5% of the total Iraqi population, they make up 40% of the refugees fleeing Iraq, according to U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. In the 16th century, Christians were half the population of Iraq. In 1987, the last Iraqi census counted 1.4 million Christians. But as the current war has radicalized Islamic sensibilities, Christians have seen their total numbers slump to about 500,000 today, of whom 250,000 live in Baghdadmarker.

Furthermore, the small Mandaean and Yazidi communities are at the risk of elimination due to ethnic cleansing by Islamic militants. Entire neighborhoods in Baghdadmarker were ethnically cleansed by Shia and Sunni Militias. Satellite shows ethnic cleansing in Iraq was key factor in "surge" success.

The US government position on refugees states that there is repression of religious minorities in the Middle East and in Pakistanmarker such as Christians, Hindus, as well as Ahmadi, and Zikri denominations of Islam. In Sudanmarker where Islam is the state religion, Muslims dominate the Government and restrict activities of Christians, practitioners of traditional African indigenous religions and other non-Muslims [7455]. The question of Jewish, Christian and other refugees from Arab and Muslim countries was introduced in March 2007 in the US congress [7456].

In the Islamic republic of Iranmarker, Iranian Christians decry minority religions' lack of freedom in Islamic countries [7457], while Bahá'ís are also fleeing religious persecution [7458].

Refugee movements in Asia


From the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 through the early 1990s, the Afghan War (1978–92) caused more than six million refugees to flee to the neighboring countries of Pakistan and Iran, making Afghanistanmarker the greatest refugee-producing country. At the peak of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, close to seven million Afghan refugees sought refuge within Pakistan, making Pakistan the only country to have hosted such a huge number of refugees. The number of refugees fluctuated with the waves of the war, with thousands more fleeing after the Taliban takeover of 1996. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and continued ethnic cleansing and reprisals also caused additional displacement. Though there has been some repatriation sponsored by the U.N. from Iran and Pakistan, a 2007 UNHCR census identified over two million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan alone.

, Iran was home to 915,000 Afghan refugees and 54,000 Iraqi refugees. In 2002, UNCHR began an Afghan voluntary repatriation programme. Since late April 2007, the Iranian government has forcibly deporting back to Afghanistan mostly unregistered (and some registered) Afghan refugees Afghans living and working in Iran. The forceful evictions of the refugees, who have lived in Iran and Pakistanmarker for nearly three decades, are part of the two countries' larger plans to repatriate all Afghan refugees. Experts say it will be 'disastrous' for Afghanistan. 362,000 Afghans were deported in 2008.

The Partition of 1947

The partition of the Indian subcontinent into Indiamarker and Pakistanmarker in 1947 resulted in the largest human movement in history: an exchange of 18,000,000 Hindus and Sikhs (from Bangladesh-65% and Pakistan-35%) for Muslims (from India). During the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, owing to the civil war in Bangladesh (formerly east Pakistan) and Operation Searchlight, more than ten million Bengali-speaking Bangladeshis fled to neighboring India.

Bangladeshi refugees in India in 1971

As a result of the Bangladesh Liberation War, on 27 March 1971, Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, expressed full support of her Government to the Bangladeshi struggle for freedom. The Bangladesh-India border was opened to allow panic-stricken Bangladeshis' safe shelter in India. The governments of West Bengalmarker, Biharmarker, Assammarker, Meghalayamarker and Tripuramarker established refugee camps along the border. Exiled Bangladeshi army officers and the Indian military immediately started using these camps for recruitment and training members of Mukti Bahini. During the Bangladesh War of Independence around 10 million Bangladeshismarker fled the country to escape the killings and atrocities committed by the Pakistanmarker Army.Bangladeshi refugees known as '"Chakmas"' in Indiamarker.

The Himalayas

After the 1959 Tibetan exodus, there are more than 150,000 Tibetans who live in Indiamarker, many in settlements in Dharamsalamarker and Mysoremarker, and Nepal. These include people who have escaped over the Himalayasmarker from Tibet, as well as their children and grandchildren. In India the overwhelming majority of Tibetans born in India are still stateless and carry a document called an Identity Card issued by the Indian government in lieu of a passport. This document states the nationality of the holder as Tibetan. It is a document that is frequently rejected as a valid travel document by many customs and immigrations departments. The Tibetan refugees also own a Green Book issued by the Tibetan Government in Exile for rights and duties towards this administration.

In 1991–92, Bhutanmarker expelled roughly 100,000 ethnic Nepalismarker of Nepali origin, most of whom have been living in seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal ever since. In March 2008, this population began a multiyear resettlement to third countries including the United Statesmarker,New Zealandmarker, Denmarkmarker and Australia. At present, the United Statesmarker is working towards resettling more than 60,000 of these refugees in the US as a third country settlement programme.

Meanwhile, as many as 200,000 Nepalese were displaced during the Maoist insurgency and Nepalese Civil War which ended in 2006.

More than 3 million Pakistani civilians have been displaced by War in North-West Pakistan (2004–Present) between the Pakistanimarker government and Taliban militants.

Sri Lankan Tamils

The civil war in Sri Lankamarker (1983 to the 2009) has generated millions of internally displaced as well as refugees. Sri Lanka Tamils have fled to Indiamarker, Europe (mostly Francemarker, Denmarkmarker, the United Kingdommarker, and Germanymarker), and Canadamarker (over 103,625 people).


Some 300,000 Kashmiri Pandit Hindus (conservative estimate) have been internally displaced from Kashmr by Pakistan based terrorist organizations. According to the National Human Rights Commission, about 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits have been forced to leave Kashmir. But Kashmiri groups peg the number of migrants closer to 500,000.

Tajikistan Civil War

Since 1991, much of the country's non-Muslim population, including Russians and Jews, have fled Tajikistanmarker due to severe poverty, instability and Tajikistan Civil War (1992–1997). In 1992, most of the country’s Jewish population was evacuated to Israelmarker. By the end of the civil war Tajikistan was in a state of complete devastation. Around 1.2 million people were refugees inside and outside of the country.


In 1989, after bloody pogroms against the Meskhetian Turks in Central Asia's Ferghana Valleymarker, nearly 90,000 Meskhetian Turks left Uzbekistanmarker.

Southeast Asia (Vietnam War)

Following the communist takeovers in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in 1975, about three million people attempted to escape in the subsequent decades. With massive influx of refugees daily, the resources of the receiving countries were severely strained. The plight of the boat people became an international humanitarian crisis. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) set up refugee camps in neighboring countries to process the boat people. The budget of the UNHCR increased from $80 million in 1975 to $500 million in 1980. Partly for its work in Indochina, the UNHCR was awarded the 1981 Nobel Peace Prize.

Refugee movements in Africa

Since the 1950s, many nations in Africa have suffered civil wars and ethnic strife, thus generating a massive number of refugees of many different nationalities and ethnic groups. The division of Africa into European colonies in 1885, along which lines the newly independent nations of the 1950s and 1960s drew their borders, has been cited as a major reason why Africa has been so plagued with intrastate warfare. The number of refugees in Africa increased from 860,000 in 1968 to 6,775,000 by 1992 ( Encyclopedia Britannica, 2004). By the end of 2004, that number had dropped to 2,748,400 refugees, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees [7462]. (That figure does not include internally displaced persons, who do not cross international borders and so do not fit the official definition of refugee.)

Many refugees in Africa cross into neighboring countries to find haven; often, African countries are simultaneously countries of origin for refugees and countries of asylum for other refugees. The Democratic Republic of Congomarker, for instance, was the country of origin for 462,203 refugees at the end of 2004, but a country of asylum for 199,323 other refugees.

Countries in Africa from where 5,000 or more refugees originated as of the end of 2004, arranged in descending order of numbers of refugees are listed below. (UNHCR, 2004 Global Refugee Trends, Table 3.) The largest number of refugees are from Sudan and have fled either the longstanding and recently concluded Sudanese Civil War or the Darfur conflict and are located mainly in Chadmarker, Uganda, Ethiopiamarker, and Kenyamarker.


Decolonisation during the 1960s and 1970s often resulted in the mass exodus of European-descended settlers out of Africa – especially from North Africa (1.6 million European pieds noirs), Congo, Mozambique and Angola. By the mid-1970s, the Portugal's African territories were lost, and nearly one million Portuguese or persons of Portuguese descent left those territories (mostly Portuguese Angolamarker and Mozambiquemarker) as destitute refugees – the retornados.

The Angolan Civil War (1975–2002), one of the largest and deadliest Cold War conflicts, erupted shortly after and spread out across the newly-independent country. At least one million persons were killed, four million were displaced internally and another half million fled as refugees.


In the 1970s Uganda and other East African nations implemented racist policies that targeted the Asian population of the region. Uganda under Idi Amin's leadership was particularly most virulent in its anti-Asian policies, eventually resulting in the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Uganda's Asian minority. Uganda's 80,000 Asians were mostly Indians born in the country. Indiamarker had refused to accept them. Most of the expelled Indians eventually settled in the United Kingdommarker, Canadamarker and in the United Statesmarker.

Great Lakes refugee crisis

Refugee camp in Zaire, 1994

In the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, over two million people fled into neighboring countries, in particular Zairemarker. The refugee camps were soon controlled by the former government and Hutu militants who used the camps as bases to launch attacks against the new government in Rwandamarker. Little action was taken to resolve the situation and the crisis did not end until Rwanda-supported rebels forced the refugees back across the border at the beginning of the First Congo War.


Some 2.5, million roughly one-third the population of the Darfurmarker area, have been forced to flee their homes after attacks by Janjaweed Arab militia backed by Sudanese troops during the ongoing Darfur conflict in western Sudanmarker.

Refugee movements in and within Europe

European Union

The European Union is developing a common system for immigration and asylum and a single external border control strategy. This involves categorising refugees as separate from economic migrants – i.e. as political migrants which includes the categories illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, and as refugees.

According to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, a network of European refugee-assisting non-governmental organizations (NGOs), huge differences exist between national asylum systems in Europe, making the asylum system a 'lottery' for refugees. For example, Iraqis who flee their home country and end up in Germany have a 85% of being recognised as a refugee and those who apply for asylum in Slovenia do not get a protection status at all. A phenomenon referred to as 'secondary movement' describes the travelling of asylum seekers from one country of the European Union to another.

In Francemarker, helping an illegal immigrant (providing shelter, for example) is prohibited by a law passed on December 27, 1994 [7463]. The law was heavily criticized by (NGOs) such as the CIMADE and the GISTI, left-wing political parties such as the Greens and the Communists, and trade unions such as the magistrates' Syndicat de la magistrature.

The Turkish newspaper Hürriyet published stories in July 2004 and May 2006 that Hellenic Coast Guard ships were caught on film cruising as near as a few hundred meters off the Turkish coast and abandoning clandestine immigrants to the sea. This practice allegedly resulted in the drowning of six people between Chiosmarker and Karaburun Peninsula on 26 September 2006 while three others disappeared and 31 were saved by Turkish gendarmes and fishermen.

A tough new EU immigration law detaining illegal immigrants for up to 18 months before deportation has triggered outrage across Latin America, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatening to cut off oil exports to Europe.


In 1956–57 following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 nearly 200,000 persons, about two percent of the population of Hungarymarker, fled as refugees to Austriamarker and West Germanymarker.


The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 was followed by a wave of emigration, unseen before and stopped shortly after (estimate: 70,000 immediately, 300,000 in total), typically of highly qualified people left for Austriamarker or West Germanymarker .


It is estimated that 40% of the Greek population of Cyprusmarker, as well as over half of the Turkish Cypriot population, were displaced by the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The figures for internally displaced Cypriots varies, the United Peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) estimates 165,000 Greek Cypriots and 45,000 Turkish Cypriots. The UNHCR registers slightly higher figures of 200,000 and 65,000 respectively, being partly based on official Cypriot statistics which register children of displaced families as refugees. The separation of the two communities via the UN patrolled Green Line prohibited the return of all internally displaced people.


Following the Greek Civil War (1946–1949) hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Ethnic Macedonians were expelled or fled the country. The number of refugees ranged from 35,000 to over 213,000. Over 28,000 children were evacuated by the Partisans to the Eastern Bloc and the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. This left thousands of Greeks and Aegean Macedonians spread across the world.

The forced assimilation campaign of the late 1980s directed against ethnic Turks resulted in the emigration of some 300,000 Bulgarian Turks to Turkey.

Beginning in 1991, political upheavals in the Balkans such as the breakup of Yugoslavia, displaced about 2,700,000 people by mid-1992, of which over 700,000 of them sought asylum in Europe. In 1999, about one million Albanians escaped from Serbian persecution.

Today there are still thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons in the Balkan Region who cannot return to their homes. Most of them are Serbs who cannot return to Kosovomarker, and who still live in refugee camps in Serbia today. Over 200,000 Serbs and other non-Albanian minorities fled or were expelled from Kosovo after the Kosovo War in 1999.

Refugees and IDPs in Serbiamarker form between 7% and 7.5% of its population – about half a million refugees sought refuge in the country following the series of Yugoslav wars (from Croatia mainly, to an extent Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker too and the IDPs from Kosovomarker, which are the most numerous at over 200,000). Serbia has the largest refugee population in Europe.


From 1992 ongoing conflict has taken place in Chechenyamarker, Caucasus due to independence proclaimed by this republic in 1991 which is not accepted by the Russian Federationmarker or any other state in the world. As a consequence about 2 million people have been displaced and still cannot return to their homes. At the end of the Soviet era, ethnic Russians comprised about 23% of the population (269,000 in 1989). Due to widespread lawlessness and ethnic cleansing under the government of Dzhokhar Dudayev most non-Chechens (and many Chechens as well) fled the country during the 1990s or were killed.


The forced displacement and ethnic-cleansing of more than 250,000 people, mostly Georgians but some others too, from Abkhaziamarker during the conflict and after in 1993 and 1998.

As a result of 1991–1992 South Ossetia War, about 100,000 ethnic Ossetians fled South Ossetia and Georgia proper, most across the border into North Ossetia. A further 23,000 ethnic Georgians fled South Ossetia and settled in other parts of Georgiamarker.

The United Nations estimated 100,000 Georgians have been uprooted as a result of the 2008 South Ossetia war; some 30,000 residents of South Ossetiamarker fled into the neighboring Russian province of North Ossetiamarker.

Refugee movements in the Americas

More than one million Salvadorans were displaced during the Salvadoran Civil War from 1975 to 1982. About half went to the United States, most settling in the Los Angelesmarker area. There was also a large exodus of Guatemalans during the 1980s, trying to escape from the Civil War and genocide there as well. These people went to Southern Mexico and the U.S.

From 1991 through 1994, following the military coup d'état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, thousands of Haitiansmarker fled violence and repression by boat. Although most were repatriated to Haiti by the U.S. government, others entered the United States as refugees. Haitians were primarily regarded as economic migrants from the grinding poverty of Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemispheremarker.

The victory of the forces led by Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution led to a large exodus of Cubans between 1959 and 1980. Dozens of Cubans yearly continue to risk the waters of the Straits of Floridamarker seeking better economic and political conditions in the U.S. In 1999 the highly publicized case of six year old Elián González brought the covert migration to international attention. Measures by both governments have attempted to address the issue; the U.S. instituted a wet feet, dry feet policy allowing refuge to those travelers who manage to complete their journey, and the Cuban government have periodically allowed for mass migration by organizing leaving posts. The most famous of these agreed migrations was the Mariel boatlift of 1980.

Colombiamarker has one of the world's largest populations of internally displaced persons (IDPs), with estimates ranging from 2.6 to 4.3 million people, due to the ongoing Colombian armed conflict. The larger figure is cumulative since 1985. It is now estimated by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants that there are about 150,000 Colombian in "refugee-like situations" in the United States, not recognized as refugees or subject to any formal protection.

During the Vietnam War, many U.S. citizens who were conscientious objectors and wished to avoid the draft sought political asylum in Canada. President Jimmy Carter issued an amnesty. Since 1975, the U.S. has resettled approximately 2.6 million refugees, with nearly 77% being either Indochinese or citizens of the former Soviet Union. Since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, annual admissions figures have ranged from a high of 207,116 in 1980 to a low of 27,100 in 2002.

Currently, ten national voluntary agencies resettle refugees nationwide on behalf of the U.S. government: Church World Service, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, International Rescue Committee, US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, World Relief Corporation and State of Iowa, Bureau of Refugee Services.

The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) funds a number of organizations that provide technical assistance to voluntary agencies and local refugee resettlement organizations. RefugeeWorks, headquartered in Baltimore, MD., is ORR's training and technical assistance arm for employment and self-sufficiency activities, for example. This nonprofit organization assists refugee service providers in their efforts to help refugees achieve self-sufficiency. RefugeeWorks publishes white papers, newsletters and reports on refugee employment topics.

Climate refugees

Although they do not fit the definition of refugees set out in the UN Convention, people displaced by the effects of climate change have often been termed "climate refugees" or "climate change refugees".

Sea level rise and raising global temperatures threaten food security and state sovereignty for many around the world. Higher temperatures are expected to further raise sea level by expanding ocean water, melting mountain glaciers and small ice caps, and causing portions of Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets to melt. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) estimates that the global average sea level will rise between 0.6 and 2 feet (0.18 to 0.59 meters) in the next century. While other sources suggest that this conclusion is too conservative. Science and Nature Geoscience used empirical data from last century to project that sea levels could be up to 5 feet higher (0.5 to 1.4 meters) in 2100 and rising 6 inches per decade . These models provide evidence that people that call low lying atolls, islands, and the Arctic home will become refugees.

In tropical and subtropical regions and even in temperate zones where crops and livestock production play an essential role in a regions economy are highly susceptible to global temperature rise and in turn food security crises . Severe drought and hunger related deaths will become more prevalent, causing “unprecedented rates of migration from north to south, from rural to urban areas, and from landlocked to coastal countries” as was seen between the late 1960s to the early 1990s by the Sahal.

Refugees as security threats

Very rarely, refugees have been used and recruited as refugee warriors, and the humanitarian aid directed at refugee relief has very rarely been utilized to fund the acquisition of arms. Support from a refugee-receiving state has rarely been used to enable refugees to mobilize militarily, enabling conflict to spread across borders.

Common refugee medical problems

Apart from physical wounds or starvation, a large percentage of refugees develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. These long-term mental problems can severely impede the functionality of the person in everyday situations; it makes matters even worse for displaced persons who are confronted with a new environment and challenging situations. They are also at high risk for suicide.

Among other symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder involves anxiety, over-alertness, sleeplessness, chronic fatigue syndrome, motor difficulties, failing short term memory, amnesia, nightmares and sleep-paralysis. Flashbacks are characteristic to the disorder: The patient experiences the traumatic event, or pieces of it, again and again. Depression is also characteristic for PTSD-patients and may also occur without accompanying PTSD.

PTSD was diagnosed in 34.1% of Palestinian children, most of whom were refugees, males, and working. The participants were 1,000 children aged 12 to 16 years from governmental, private, and United Nations Relief Work Agency UNRWA schools in East Jerusalem and various governorates in the West Bank.Khamis, V. Post-traumatic stress disorder among school age Palestinian children. Child Abuse Negl. 2005 Jan;29(1):81–95.

Another study showed that 28.3% of Bosniamarker refugee women had symptoms of PTSD three or four years after their arrival in Sweden. These women also had significantly higher risks of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress than Swedish-born women. For depression the odds ratio was 9.50 among Bosnian women.Sundquist K, Johansson LM, DeMarinis V, Johansson SE, Sundquist J. Posttraumatic stress disorder and psychiatric co-morbidity: symptoms in a random sample of female Bosnian refugees. Eur Psychiatry. 2005 Mar;20(2):158–64.

A study by the Department of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at the Boston Universitymarker School of Medicine demonstrated that twenty percent of Sudanese refugee minors living in the United States had a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. They were also more likely to have worse scores on all the Child Health Questionnaire subscales.Geltman PL, Grant-Knight W, Mehta SD, Lloyd-Travaglini C, Lustig S, Landgraf JM, Wise PH. The "lost boys of Sudan": functional and behavioral health of unaccompanied refugee minors re-settled in the United States. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Jun;159(6):585–91.

Many more studies illustrate the problem. One meta-study was conducted by the psychiatry department of Oxford Universitymarker at Warneford Hospital in the United Kingdom. Twenty survey were analyzed, providing results for 6,743 adult refugees from seven countries. In the larger studies, 9% were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and 5% with major depression, with evidence of much psychiatric co-morbidity. Five surveys of 260 refugee children from three countries yielded a prevalence of 11% for post-traumatic stress disorder. According to this study, refugees resettled in Western countries could be about ten times more likely to have PTSD than age-matched general populations in those countries. Worldwide, tens of thousands of refugees and former refugees resettled in Western countries probably have post-traumatic stress disorder.Fazel M, Wheeler J, Danesh J. Prevalence of serious mental disorder in 7000 refugees resettled in western countries: a systematic review. Lancet. 2005 Apr 9–15;365(9467):1309–14.


Refugee populations consist of people who are terrified and are away from familiar surroundings. There can be instances of exploitation at the hands of enforcement officials, citizens of the host country, and even United Nations peacekeepers. Instances ofhuman rights violations, child labor, mental and physical trauma/torture, violence-related trauma, and sexual exploitation, especially of children, are not entirely unknown. In many refugee camps in three war-torn West African countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, young girls were found to be exchanging sex for money, a handful of fruit, or even a bar of soap. Most of these girls were between 13 and 18 years of age. In most cases, if the girls had been forced to stay, they would had been forced into marriage. They became become pregnant on average around the age of 15.This happened as recently as in 2001. Parents tended to turn a blind eye because sexual exploitation had become a ‘‘mechanism of survival’’ in these camps.

World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day occurs on June 20. The day was created in 2000 by a special United Nations General Assembly Resolution. June 20 had previously been commemorated as African Refugee Day in a number of African countries.

In the United Kingdommarker World Refugee Day is celebrated as part of Refugee Week. Refugee Week is a nationwide festival designed to promote understanding and to celebrate the cultural contributions of refugees, and features many events such as music, dance and theatre.

In the Roman Catholic Church, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees is celebrated in January each year, having been instituted in 1914 by Pope Pius X.

"Nothing At All" is a folk song by Bob Thomas and Huw Pudner about the plight of a refugee being forced back to his own country against his will.

See also


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  81. Portugal - Emigration, Eric Solsten, ed. Portugal: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1993.
  82. Refugees Magazine Issue 131: (Africa) – Africa At A Glance, UNHCR
  83. Ugandan refugees recount black deeds of 'butcher of Kampala'
  84. UK Indians taking care of business
  85. Uganda's loss, Britain's gain
  86. African Union Force Ineffective, Complain Refugees in Darfur
  87. Arabs pile into Darfur to take land 'cleansed' by janjaweed
  88. European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) - Asylum in the EU
  89. Delete the Border quoting Khaleej Times; ADN Kronos Survivors of the immigrant boat tragedy accuse Greeks (in English) – [2] [3] [4]. The newspaper Hürriyet (in Turkish). Three of the drowned were Tunisians, one was Algerian, one Palestinian and the other Iraqi. The three disappeared were also Tunisians.
  90. Chavez: Europe risks oil over immigrant law
  91. Venezuela's Chavez Threatens to Deny Oil, Investments to EU Over Immigration Laws
  92. The Lives of the Hungarian Refugees, UNHCR
  93. "Day when tanks destroyed Czech dreams of Prague Spring" (Den, kdy tanky zlikvidovaly české sny Pražského jara) at Britské Listy (British Letters)
  95. Bosnia: Dayton Accords
  96. Resettling Refugees: U.N. Facing New Burden
  97. Serbia threatens to resist Kosovo independence plan
  98. Kosovo/Serbia: Protect Minorities from Ethnic Violence (Human Rights Watch)
  99. Chechnya Advocacy Network. Refugees and Diaspora
  100. Ethnic Russians in the North of Caucasus - Eurasia Daily Monitor
  101. Bookman, Milica Zarkovic, "The Demographic Struggle for Power", (p. 131), Frank Cass and Co. Ltd. (UK), (1997) ISBN 0-7146-4732-2
  103. 100,000 refugees flee Georgia conflict
  104. Number of internally displaced people remains stable at 26 million. Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). May 4, 2009.
  105. RefugeeWorks Mission Statement
  106. ( Feb. 10 2009.
  107. Rahmstorf, Stephan. "A Semi-Empirical Approach to Projecting Sea Level Rise." Science. vol 315: Jan 19, 2007.
  108. Rohling, E.J and Grant, K. et al., "High rates of sea-level raise during the last interglaical period". Nature GeoScience. vol 1, pg 38–42. Published Online Dec. 16, 2007.
  109. (Battisti, David and Naylor, Rosamond. "Historical Warnings of Future Food Insecurity with Unprecedented Seasonal Heat". Science.vol 323, pg 240–244. Jan. 9 2009)
  110. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 1999 “The Security and Civilian and Humanitarian Character of Refugee Camps and Settlements.” UNHCR EXCOM Report
  111. Crisp, J. 1999 “A State of Insecurity: The Political Economy of Violence in Refugee-Populated Areas of Kenya.” Working Paper No. 16, “New Issues in Refugee Research.”
  112. Weiss, T. G. 1999 “Principles, Politics, and International Affairs,” Ethics &International Affairs, 13: 1–22.
  113. - Detainee children 'in suicide pact' - January 28, 2002
  114. Aggrawal A. (2005) "Refugee Medicine" in : Payne-James JJ, Byard RW, Corey TS, Henderson C (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Elsevier Academic Press: London, Vol. 3, Pp. 514–525.


  • Mark Bixler, "The Lost Boys of Sudan: An American Story of the Refugee Experience," University of Georgia Press 2005
  • Refugee number statistics taken from 'Refugee', Encyclopaedia Britannica CD Edition 2004.
  • Peter Fell and Debra Hayes, "What are they doing here? A critical guide to asylum and immigration." Venture Press 2007.
  • Matthew J. Gibney, "The Ethics and Politics of Asylum: Liberal Democracy and the Response to Refugees," Cambridge University Press 2004
  • Michael Robert Marrus, The Unwanted: European refugees in the 20th century, Oxford University Press 1985
  • Dietmar Schultke, refugees in former East-Germany 1945-1990, in: "Keiner kommt durch - Die Geschichte der innerdeutschen Grenze und Berliner Mauer, Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 2008
  • Tony Waters, Bureaucatizing the Good Samaritan, Westview Press, 2001.
  • Aristide R. Zolberg et al.,"Escape from Violence," Oxford University Press, 1989.

External links

  • UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • USCRI The United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (prints The World Refugee Survey, a great resource)
  • Refugees International
[7464]Refugees United an internet search engine designed for refugees looking for lost family and friends worldwide

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