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Under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees from 1951, a refugee is a person who (according to the formal definition in article 1A of this Convention), 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.[1]

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.

Refugees were 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]

As of December 31, 2005, the largest source countries of refugees are Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar, Sudan, and the Palestinian Territories. The country with the largest number of IDPs is Sudan, with over 5 million. As of 2006, with 800,000 refugees and IDPs, Azerbaijan had the highest per capita IDP population in the world.[5]



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 Tomis and Voltaire was exiled to England. 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.

One million Armenians fled Turkey between 1915 and 1923 to escape persecution and genocide.

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 France, hundreds of thousands of Huguenots fled to England, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Germany 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, Crimea and Crete,[6] took refuge in present-day Turkey and moulded the country's fundamental features.[7] The Balkan Wars of 1912–1913 caused 800,000 people to leave their homes.[8] 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 Armenians who left Turkish Asia Minor 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 Assyrians and Turkish refugees.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.

Children preparing for evacuation from Spain during the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939.

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 Austria and Sudetenland. 150,000 Czechs were displaced after October 1, 1938, when the German army entered the border regions of Czechoslovakia surrendered in accordance with the Munich Agreement.[12]

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.[9] 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.[13]

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 China. 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[14]. (See German exodus from Eastern Europe.) Between the end of World War II and the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961, more than 563,700 refugees from East Germany traveled to West Germany for asylum from the Soviet occupation.

Also, millions of former Russian citizens were forcefully repatriated (against their will) into the USSR.[15] On 11 February 1945, at the conclusion of the Yalta Conference, the United States and United Kingdom signed a Repatriation Agreement with the USSR.[16] The interpretation of this Agreement resulted in the forcible repatriation of all Soviets regardless of their wishes. When the war ended in May 1945, British and U.S. civilian authorities ordered their military forces in Europe to deport to the Soviet Union 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.[17] 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)[18] in Germany and occupied territories.[19][20] 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.[21][22] The survivors on their return to the USSR were treated as traitors (see Order No. 270).[23][24] Over 1.5 million surviving Red Army soldiers imprisoned by the Germans were sent to the Gulag.[25][26]

Poland 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).[27]

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.[28] 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.[29] 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 Geneva, Switzerland, 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 state 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[5].

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 Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Serbia and Montenegro and Côte d'Ivoire to assist and provide services to IDPs.

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

Asylum seekers

Power lines leading to a rubbish dump hover just overhead in El Carpio, a Nicaraguan refugee camp in Costa Rica

Refugees are a subgroup of the broader category of displaced persons. Environmental refugees (people displaced because of environmental 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). One designation of refugee pertaining to children is unaccompanied refugee minor (URM).

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.[citation needed] 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 States 80,000 1980
Canada 11,000 1978
Australia 10,000 Unknown
Norway 1,500 Unknown
Sweden 1,375 1950
New Zealand 750 1979
Finland 750 1979
Denmark 517 1989
Netherlands 500 1984

Resettlement involves the assisted movement of refugees who are unable to return home to safe third countries.[30][31] The UNHCR has traditionally seen resettlement as the least preferable of the "durable solutions" to refugee situations.[32] However, in April 2000 the then UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, stated:

Resettlement can no longer be seen as the least-preferred durable solution; in many cases it is the only solution for refugees

—Sadako Ogata, UN High Commissioner for Refugees,April 2000[32]

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 Iraq, 30,388 from Burma/Myanmar and 23,516 from Bhutan in 2008.[31]

In terms of resettlement departures, in 2008, 65,548 refugees were resettled in 26 countries, up from 49,868 in 2007.[31] The largest number of UNHCR-assisted departures were from Thailand (16,807), Nepal (8,165), Syria (7,153), Jordan (6,704) and Malaysia (5,865).[31] 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.[32] The largest programmes are run by the United States, Canada and Australia. A number of European countries run smaller schemes and in 2004 the United Kingdom established its own scheme, known as the Gateway Protection Programme[32] with an initial quota of 500 (2004), which rose to 750 in the financial year 2009/09.[33]

In September 2009, the European Commission 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.[34]


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 camp in Guinea for refugees from Sierra Leone.

A refugee camp is a place built by governments or NGOs (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, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States [6]) 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 Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, Somalia, and Sudan, which have been in various wars and revolutions, and the former Yugoslavia, due to the Yugoslav wars.

According to Agence France-Presse, Japan 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.[36]

The United States took in 85,010 for resettlement, according to the UNHCR. New Zealand 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 Cuba, Haiti, Morocco, Vietnam or Albania. 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 Cambodia, Laos, and especially Vietnam to become refugees in the late 1970s and 1980s. In 2001, 353 asylum seekers sailing from Indonesia 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 Florida 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 States, New Zealand, Germany, France, Russia, Canada, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain 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 those who have repeatedly breached their visa conditions or those who have security or health risks.[37][38]

Historical and contemporary refugee crises

Refugee situations in the Middle East

Palestinian refugees

Following the 1948 proclamation of the State of Israel, 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 USSR, 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.[39] 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.[39]

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.[40] 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. S. Res. 85

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 crossed into Israel [41]. Some 600 refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan have been granted temporary resident status to be renewed every year, though not official refugee state. [42]Another 2,000 refugees from the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia 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.[41] though Sudanese, who are from an enemy state, are also not recognized as refugees. 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.[43] A Knesset bill entitled the "Anti-Infiltration Law" would allow the continuation of deportation back to Egypt within 72 hours.[44]

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 Algeria 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").[45][46]


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. 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, and Mexican 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).[47]

The 2006 Lebanon War displaced approximately one million Lebanese[48] and approximately 500,000 Israelis, although most were able to return to their homes.[49] 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.[50]

Western Sahara

It is estimated that more than 150,00 Sahrawis – people from the disputed territory of Western Sahara – have lived in five large refugee camps near Tindouf in the Algerian part of the Sahara Desert since 1975.[51][52] 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.[53]

Nagorno Karabakh

The Nagorno Karabakh conflict has resulted in the displacement of 528,000 (this figure does not include new born children of these IDPs) Azerbaijanis from Armenian occupied territories including Nagorno Karabakh, and 220,000 Azeris and 18,000 Kurds fled from Armenia to Azerbaijan from 1988 to 1989.[54] 280,000 persons—virtually all ethnic Armenians—fled Azerbaijan during the 1988–1993 war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.[55] 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.[56]


Between 1984 and 1999, the PKK and the Turkish 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 Diyarbakır, Van, and Şırnak, 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.[57] 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.[58][59][60][61]

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.[62] 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.[63][64][65] Only 1% of the total Iraqi displaced population was estimated to be in the Western countries.[66]

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.[67] Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan live in impoverished communities with little international attention to their plight and little legal protection.[68] In Syria alone an estimated 50,000 Iraqi girls and women, many of them widows, are forced into prostitution just to survive.[69][70]

According to Washington based Refugees International, out of the 4.2 million refugees fewer than 800 have been allowed into the US since the 2003 invasion. Sweden had accepted 18,000 and Australia had resettled almost 6,000.[71] 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.[72]

As of September 2007 Syria 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.[73][74]

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.[75][76] In the 16th century, Christians were half the population of Iraq.[77] In 1987, the last Iraqi census counted 1.4 million Christians.[78] 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 Baghdad.[79]

Furthermore, the small Mandaean and Yazidi communities are at the risk of elimination due to ethnic cleansing by Islamic militants.[80][81] Entire neighborhoods in Baghdad were ethnically cleansed by Shia and Sunni Militias.[82][83] Satellite shows ethnic cleansing in Iraq was key factor in "surge" success.[84]

The US government position on refugees states that there is repression of religious minorities in the Middle East and in Pakistan such as Christians, Hindus, as well as Ahmadi, and Zikri denominations of Islam. In Sudan 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 [7]. The question of Jewish, Christian and other refugees from Arab and Muslim countries was introduced in March 2007 in the US congress [8].

In the Islamic republic of Iran, Iranian Christians decry minority religions' lack of freedom in Islamic countries [9], while Bahá'ís are also fleeing religious persecution [10].

Refugee movements in Asia


From the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 until the late 2001 US-led invasion, about six million Afghan refugees have fled to neighboring Pakistan (mainly NWFP) and Iran, making Afghanistan the largest refugee-producing country. Since early 2002, more than 5 million Afghan refugees have repatriated through the UNHCR from both Pakistan and Iran back to their native country, Afghanistan.[85] Approximately 3.5 million from Pakistan[86] while the remaining 1.5 million from Iran. Since 2007 the Iranian government has forcibly deported mostly unregistered (and some registered) Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan, with 362,000 being deported in 2008.[87]

As of March 2009, some 1.7 million registered Afghan refugees still remain in Pakistan. This include the many who were born in Pakistan during the last 30 years but still counted as citizens of Afghanistan. They are allowed to work and study until the end of 2012.[88] 935,600 registered Afghans are living in Iran, which also include the ones born inside Iran.[89]

The Partition of 1947

The partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947 resulted in the largest human movement in history. In this population exhange approximately 7 million Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan moved to India while approximately 7 million Muslims from India moved to Pakistan. Approximately one million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs died during this event.

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 Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura 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 Bangladeshis fled the country to escape the killings and atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army. Bangladeshi refugees known as '"Chakmas"' in India.

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh and Pakistan from Burma

Bangladesh hosts more than 250,000 Muslim Rohingya refugees forced from western Burma (Myanmar) who fled in 1991-92 to escape persecution by the Burmese military junta. Many have lived there for close to twenty years. The Bangladeshi government divides the Rohingya into two categories - recognized refugees living in official camps and unrecognized refugees living in unofficial sites or among Bangladeshi communities. Around 30,000 Rohingyas are residing in two camps in Nayapara and Kutupalong area of Cox's Bazar district in Bangladesh. These camp residents have access to basic services, those outside do not. With no changes inside Burma in sight, Bangladesh must come to terms with the long-term needs of all the Rohingya refugees in the country, and allow international organizations to expand services that benefit the Rohingya as well as local communities.

The agency has been supporting Rohingya refugees staying in the camps. On the other hand, it is not receiving applications for refugee status from the newly arrived Rohingyas. This amounts to compromising of its mandate. The brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Arakan State by the Burmese military in 1991-92 thousands of people have been detained in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh and tens of thousands have been repatriated to Burma to face further repression. There are widespread allegations of religious persecution, use of forced labor and denial of citizenship of many Rohingya forced to return to Burma since 1996. Many have fled again to Bangladesh to seek work or shelter, or flee from Burmese military oppression, and some are forced across the border by Burmese security forces. In the past few months, abuses against Rohingya in Arakan State has continued, including strict registration laws that continue to deny Rohingya citizenship, restrictions on movement, land confiscation and forced evictions to make way for Buddhist Burmese settlements, widespread forced labor in infrastructure projects and closure of some mosques, including nine in North Buthidaung Township of Western Arakan State in the last half of 2006.[90][91][92]

There are also large number of Muslim Rohingya refugees in Pakistan. Most of them have made perilous journey across Bangladesh and India and have settled in Karachi.

The Himalayas

After the 1959 Tibetan exodus, there are more than 150,000 Tibetans who live in India, many in settlements in Dharamsala and Mysore, and Nepal. These include people who have escaped over the Himalayas 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, Bhutan expelled roughly 100,000 ethnic Nepalis 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 States,New Zealand, Denmark and Australia. At present, the United States is working towards resettling more than 60,000 of these refugees in the US as a third country settlement programme.[93]

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 Pakistani government and Taliban militants.[94]

Sri Lankan Tamils

The civil war in Sri Lanka (1983 to the 2009) has generated millions of internally displaced as well as refugees. Sri Lanka Tamils have fled to India, Europe (mostly France, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Germany), and Canada (over 103,625 people).


Some 300,000 Kashmiri Pandit Hindus (conservative estimate) have been internally displaced from Kashmr by Pakistan based separatist 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.[95]

Tajikistan Civil War

Since 1991, much of the country's non-Muslim population, including Russians and Jews, have fled Tajikistan due to severe poverty, instability and Tajikistan Civil War (1992–1997).[96] In 1992, most of the country’s Jewish population was evacuated to Israel.[97] 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.[98]


In 1989, after bloody pogroms against the Meskhetian Turks in Central Asia's Ferghana Valley, nearly 90,000 Meskhetian Turks left Uzbekistan.[99][100]

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 [14]. (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 Congo, 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 Chad, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya.


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),[101] Congo, Mozambique and Angola.[102] 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 Angola and Mozambique) as destitute refugees – the retornados.[103]

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.[104]


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.[105] Uganda's 80,000 Asians were mostly Indians born in the country. India had refused to accept them.[106] Most of the expelled Indians eventually settled in the United Kingdom, Canada and in the United States.[107]

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 Zaire. 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 Rwanda. 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.


An estimated 2.5 million people, roughly one-third the population of the Darfur 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 Sudan since roughly 2003.[108][109]

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.[110] A phenomenon referred to as 'secondary movement' describes the travelling of asylum seekers from one country of the European Union to another.

In France, helping an illegal immigrant (providing shelter, for example) is prohibited by a law passed on December 27, 1994 [15]. 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 Chios and Karaburun Peninsula on 26 September 2006 while three others disappeared and 31 were saved by Turkish gendarmes and fishermen.[111]

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.[112][113]


In 1956–57 following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 nearly 200,000 persons, about two percent of the population of Hungary, fled as refugees to Austria and West Germany.[114]


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),[115] typic


It is estimated that 40% of the Greek population of Cyprus, 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.[116] 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.[117][118] 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 Kosovo, 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.[119][120]

Refugees and IDPs in Serbia 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 Herzegovina too and the IDPs from Kosovo, which are the most numerous at over 200,000).[121] Serbia has the largest refugee population in Europe.[122]


From 1992 ongoing conflict has taken place in Chechenya, Caucasus due to independence proclaimed by this republic in 1991 which is not accepted by the Russian Federation 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.[123][124]


The forced displacement and ethnic-cleansing of more than 250,000 people, mostly Georgians but some others too, from Abkhazia during the conflict and after in 1993 and 1998.[125]

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 Georgia.[126]

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 Ossetia fled into the neighboring Russian province of North Ossetia.[127]

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 Angeles 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 Haitians 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 Hemisphere.

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 Florida 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.

Colombia 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.[128][129] It is now estimated by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants that there are about 150,000 Colombians 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.[130]

Blurring distinction between "refugee" and "economic migrant"

Not all migrants seeking shelter in another country fall under the definition of "refugee" according to article 1A of the Geneva Convention. In 1951, when the text of the Convention was discussed, the parties of the treaty had the idea that slavery was a thing from the past: therefore escaped and fleeing slaves are a group not mentioned in the definition, as well as a category that later emerged: the climate refugee (see below).

In 2008-2009, the humanitarian nature of the mass movement of Zimbabweans to neighbouring Southern African blurred the distinction between what is a "refugee" and an "economic migrant". Such people fit neither category perfectly and have more general needs, rights and responsibilities, that fall outside the specific mandate of the UNHCR. They fall between the cracks, according to the report Zimbabwean Migration into Southern Africa: New Trends and Responses, released in November 2009 by the Forced Migration Studies Programme (FMSP) at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa [131][132]. According to the researchers, a lack of protection of migrants in the region was based on a "false distinction" between a forced and an economic migrant, instead of focusing on the real and urgent needs some of these migrants have. The report suggested that a better term would be "forced humanitarian migrants", who moved for the purpose of their and their dependents' basic survival.

To emphasize the importance of a common humanitarian position on the outflow of Zimbabweans into the region the Regional Office for Southern Africa of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs coined the term "migrants of humanitarian concern" in 2008.

Official responses to Zimbabwean migration in Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique are still premised on the original definition from the 1951 Convention, and so were said to be failing to protect both Zimbabweans and their own citizens". Those crossing the border were neither refugees - most did not even apply for refugee status - and, given the extent of economic collapse at home, nor they could hardly be considered as "voluntary" economic migrants. So many of them were not legally protected, nor do they receive humanitarian support, as they fell outside the mandates of the support structures offered by government and non-government institutions. In Botswana, Zambia and Malawi, asylum is available to Zimbabweans; in Mozambique, the few applicants for asylum had been rejected due to the state's decision to consider Zimbabweans as 'economic' and not forced humanitarian migrants.

Except for South Africa, protection and access to services in most countries in the region is contingent on receiving the refugee status, and require asylum seekers to stay in isolated camps, unable to work or travel, and thus send money to relatives that stayed behind in Zimbabwe. South Africa was considering the introduction of a special permit for Zimbabweans, but the policy was still under review.

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"[133] or "climate change refugees".[134]

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[135]. 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 [136][137]. 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 [138]. 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.[138]

Refugees as security threats

Very rarely, refugees have been used and recruited as refugee warriors,[139] and the humanitarian aid directed at refugee relief has very rarely been utilized to fund the acquisition of arms.[140] Support from a refugee-receiving state has rarely been used to enable refugees to mobilize militarily, enabling conflict to spread across borders.[141]

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.[142]

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.[143]

Another study showed that 28.3% of Bosnian 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.[144]

A study by the Department of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at the Boston University 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.[145]

Many more studies illustrate the problem. One meta-study was conducted by the psychiatry department of Oxford University at Warneford Hospital in the United Kingdom. Twenty surveys 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.[146]


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 of human 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.[147]

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 Kingdom 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.


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See also


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  2. ^ Refugees by Numbers 2006 edition, UNHCR
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  • 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
  • Tony Waters, Bureaucatizing the Good Samaritan, Westview Press, 2001.

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010
(Redirected to The Refugees article)

From Wikisource

The Refugees
by Arthur Conan Doyle


Part I: In the Old World.

Part II: In the New World.


Note on the Huguenots and Their Dispersion.

Towards the latter quarter of the seventeenth century there was hardly an important industry in France which was not controlled by the Huguenots, so that, numerous as they were, their importance was out of all proportion to their numbers. The cloth trade of the north and the south-east, the manufacture of serges and light stuffs in Languedoc, the linen trade of Normandy and Brittany, the silk and velvet industry of Tours and Lyons, the glass of Normandy, the paper of Auvergne and Angoumois, the jewellery of the Isle of France, the tan yards of Touraine, the iron and tin work of the Sedanais--all these were largely owned and managed by Huguenots. The numerous Saint days of the Catholic Calendar handicapped their rivals, and it was computed that the Protestant worked 310 days in the year to his fellow-countryman's 260.

A very large number of the Huguenot refugees were brought back, and the jails and galleys of France were crowded with them. One hundred thousand settled in Friesland and Holland, 25,000 in Switzerland, 75,000 in Germany, and 50,000 in England. Some made their way even to the distant Cape of Good Hope, where they remained in the Paarl district.

In war, as in industry, the exiles were a source of strength to the countries which received them. Frenchmen drilled the Russian armies of Peter the Great, a Huguenot Count became commander-in-chief in Denmark, and Schomberg led the army of Brandenburg, and afterwards that of England.

In England three Huguenot regiments were formed for the service of William. The exiles established themselves as silk workers in Spitalfields, cotton spinners at Bideford, tapestry weavers at Exeter, wool carders at Taunton, kersey makers at Norwich, weavers at Canterbury, bat makers at Wandsworth, sailcloth makers at Ipswich, workers in calico in Bromley, glass in Sussex, paper at Laverstock, cambric at Edinburgh.

Early Protestant refugees had taken refuge in America twenty years before the revocation, where they formed a colony at Staten Island. A body came to Boston in 1684, and were given 11,000 acres at Oxford, by order of the General Court at Massachusetts. In New York and Long Island colonies sprang up, and later in Virginia (the Monacan Settlement), in Maryland, and in South Carolina (French Santee and Orange Quarter).

Note on the Future of Louis, Madame de Maintenon, and Madame de Montespan.

It has been left to our own century to clear the fair fame of Madame de Maintenon of all reproach, and to show her as what she was, a pure woman and a devoted wife. She has received little justice from the memoir writers of the seventeenth century, most of whom, the Duc de St. Simon, for example, and the Princess Elizabeth of Bavaria, had their own private reasons for disliking her. An admirable epitome of her character and influence will be found in Dr. Dollinger's _Historical Studies_. She made Louis an excellent wife, waited upon him assiduously for thirty years of married life, influenced him constantly towards good--save only in the one instance of the Huguenots, and finally died very shortly after her husband.

Madame de Montespan lived in great magnificence after the triumph of her rival, and spent freely the vast sums which the king's generosity had furnished her with. Eventually, having exhausted all that this world could offer, she took to hair-shirts and nail-studded girdles, in the hope of securing a good position in the next. Her horror of death was excessive. In thunderstorms she sat with a little child in her lap, in the hope that its innocence might shield her from the lightning. She slept always with her room ablaze with tapers, and with several women watching by the side of her couch. When at last the inevitable arrived she left her body for the family tomb, her heart to the convent of La Fleche, and her entrails to the priory of Menoux near Bourbon. These latter were thrust into a box and given to a peasant to convey to the priory. Curiosity induced him to look into the box upon the way, and, seeing the contents, he supposed himself to be the victim of a practical joke, and emptied them out into a ditch. A swineherd was passing at the moment with his pigs, and so it happened that, in the words of Mrs. Julia Pardoe, "in a few minutes the most filthy animals in creation had devoured portions of the remains of one of the haughtiest women who ever trod the earth."

Louis, after a reign of more than fifty years, which comprised the most brilliant epoch of French history, died at last in 1715 amidst the saddest surroundings.

One by one those whom he loved had preceded him to the grave, his brother, his son, the two sons of his son, their wives, and finally his favourite great-grandson, until he, the old dying monarch, with his rouge and his stays, was left with only a little infant in arms, the Duc D'Anjou, three generations away from him, to perpetuate his line. On 20th August, 1715, he was attacked by senile gangrene, which gradually spread up the leg until on the 30th it became fatal. His dying words were worthy of his better self. "Gentlemen, I desire your pardon for the bad example which I have set you. I have greatly to thank you fur the manner in which you have served me, as well as for the attachment and fidelity which I have always experienced at your hands. I request from you the same zeal and fidelity for my grandson. Farewell, gentlemen. I feel that this parting has affected not only myself but you also. Forgive me! I trust that you will sometimes think of me when I am gone."

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