7 PM | In numbers and dimensions, the global refugee crisis | 19th December 2019

Context:Global Refugee Crisis.

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  • The first Global Refugee Forum (GRF), a two-day gathering of United Nations member states held in Geneva, Switzerland on 17th and 18th december.

Who is a refugee?

  • A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence.
  • A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
  • Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.
  • Two-thirds of all refugees worldwide come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.
Text Box: The 1951 Refugee Convention is the key legal document that forms the basis of our work. Ratified by 145 State parties, it defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.
  • Refugees are defined and protected in international law. The 1951 Refugee Convention is a key legal document and defines a refugee as: “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Who is an internally displaced person?

  • An internally displaced person (IDP) is a person who has been forced to flee his or her home for the same reason as a refugee, but remains in his or her own country and has not crossed an international border. Unlike refugees, IDPs are not protected by international law or eligible to receive many types of aid.
  • Examples include South Sudan, where a humanitarian crisis grips the world’s newest country, and Yemen, where more than 2.5 million people have been displaced by ongoing violence.

Who is not legally recognized as a refugee?

  • People who leave their homes and cross international borders due to natural disasters, climate change or environmental factors are not considered refugees.
  • In addition, people who leave their homes and cross international borders due to severe situations, such as a lack of food (including famine), water, education, health care and a livelihood, are not legally-recognized refugees.
  • The United Nations states, “All of these emerging trends pose enormous challenges for the international humanitarian community. The threat of continued massive displacement is real, and the world must be prepared to deal with it. Recognizing this, the United Nations – and UNHCR in particular – have already begun reviewing priorities, partners and methods of work in dealing with the new dynamics of human displacement.”

Global Refugee Forum (GRF):

  • The Forum, jointly hosted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, and the government of Switzerland, aims to debate and discuss the response of the world’s countries to the global refugee situation.
  • According to the UNHCR, the first GRF is being held “at the end of a tumultuous decade in which the number of refugees has risen to over 25 million people worldwide”.
Text Box: The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) is a framework for more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing, recognizing that a sustainable solution to refugee situations cannot be achieved without international cooperation. It provides a blueprint for governments, international organizations, and other stakeholders to ensure that host communities get the support they need and that refugees can lead productive lives.
  • Guided by the Global Compact on Refugees, the Global Refugee Forum is an opportunity to translate the principle of international responsibility-sharing into concrete action. The Forum will showcase impactful pledges and contributions and the exchange of good practices.
  • This Forum is an opportunity to attest our collective commitment to the Global Compact on Refugees and rally behind the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals of leaving no one behind.
  • The GRF will be held every four years at the Ministerial level.
  • It is intended to present an opportunity for UN member states and other stakeholders to announce action plans and pledges towards meeting objectives such as easing the burden on the host country, enhancing refugee self-reliance, expanding access to third-country solutions, and supporting conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.
  • The first GRF has been organised around six areas of focus:
  • burden- and responsibility-sharing,
  • education,
  • jobs and livelihoods,
  • energy and infrastructure,
  • solutions, and
  • protection capacity.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR):

  • The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created in 1950, during the aftermath of the Second World War, to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes.
  • UNHCR is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people.
  • In 1954, UNHCR won the Nobel Peace Prize for its groundbreaking work in Europe.

Global Refugee Figures:

  • According to the UN, by the end of 2018, there were around 70.8 million people around the world who had left their home countries because of conflict and persecution. Of these 70.8 million, roughly 30 million are refugees.
  • Globally, more two-thirds of all refugees come from five countries: Syria (6.7 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), South Sudan (2.3 million), Myanmar (1.1 million), and Somalia (0.9 million).
  • Countries in the developed regions host 16 per cent of refugees.
  • one-third of the refugee population (6.7 million people) are in the Least Developed Countries.
  • The largest host countries are Turkey (3.7 million), Pakistan (1.4 million), Uganda (1.2 million), Sudan (1.1 million), and Germany (1.1 million).
  • According to the UN’s Global Trends report released in June this year, there are 37,000 new displacements every day.
  • In 2018, 13.6 million people were newly displaced due to conflict and or persecution.
  • The website of the UNHCR has listed 12 emergency refugee situations that are unfolding currently. Among them are:
  • Burundi: From Burundi in East Africa due to economic decline, outbreak of disease, and food insecurity. The UN has put the total number of refugees from Burundi at roughly 3.43 lakh.
  • Syria: An estimated 5.6 million people from Syria have left the country since 2011, seeking refuge in neighbouring Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan among other countries. 
  • Rohingya: In 2017, the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar fled the country after violence broke out in the country’s Rakhine state.
  • An estimated 6.7 lakh crossed over to neighbouring Bangladesh, adding to the roughly 2.13 lakh Rohingya who had left Myanmar in previous years.
  • Over 5.89 lakh refugees have now settled in the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion Site in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.
  • Other countries and regions facing a refugee situation include Europe, Yemen, Central America, Africa, South Sudan, Venezuela, DR Congo, and Nigeria.

Refugees in India:

  • India does not have a separate statute for refugees, and until now has been dealing with refugees on a case-by-case basis.
  • India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. 
  • However, India is a signatory to a number of United Nations and World Conventions on Human Rights, refugee issues and related matters. Hence its obligations in regard to refugees arise out of the latter. India has also voted affirmatively to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms rights for all persons, citizens and non- citizens a like.
  • India has been generous to refugees and asylum-seekers. The two largest groups of refugees in India, notably, some 62,000 Sri Lankan and some 100,000 Tibetans, are directly assisted by the Government of India.
  • In addition, there are some 36,000 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR, mainly from Afghanistan and Myanmar and in smaller numbers from countries in the Middle East and Africa.
  • In late 2011, the Rohingya started to arrive in India’s Northeast following stepped-up persecution by the Myanmarese armed forces.
  • According to the Home Ministry, there are roughly 14,000 Rohingya refugees in India who are registered with the UNHCR, and there are estimated to be 40,000 Rohingya living in India illegally.
  • According to the Bureau of Immigration Data, India sent back 330 Pakistanis and 1,770 Bangladeshis between 2015 and 2018.


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