In countries where people have to flee their homes because of persecution and violence, political solutions must be found, peace and tolerance restored, so that refugees can return home. In my experience, going home is the deepest wish of most refugees. Angelina Jolie
In a previous post, I talked a bit on the problem of migration and how it’s linked to human rights. I also tried to give a classification of types of migrants. One type is the refugee, and according to the classification the refugee is an involuntary migrant and a “push-migrant”. It’s the situation in the home country – usually war, famine or persecution or a combination – which forces or pushes him or her to migrate abroad, usually to one of the neighboring countries. The refugee is different from other types of migrants, such as the people who feel the “pull” of economic opportunity which, voluntarily or involuntarily (in the case of extreme poverty), drives them abroad.
Refugees who flee war, famine or oppression but do not leaev their home country are called internally displaced persons.
According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR), there were roughly 20 million refugees in the world in 2005, and 33 million in 2006. This is an underestimate because the numbers don’t include the Palestinians refugees, many of the Afghan refugees etc. Amnesty International place the number of worldwide refugees last year at just over 36 million. Three quarter of these come from Asia and Africa. The top refugee producing countries are:
The country with the largest number of internally displaced persons is Sudan, with over 5 million. Pakistan is the top host country in the world for refugees:
And these are 2007 data, with an interesting breakdown between international refugees and internally displaced persons:
Countries have an obligation to accept refugee on their territory. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that
1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. 2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
However, this obligation is often rejected by countries. Countries often subject
“refugees to arbitrary arrest, detention, denial of social and economic rights and closed borders. In the worst cases, the most fundamental principle of refugee protection, non-refoulement, is violated, and refugees are forcibly returned to countries where they face persecution.” Human Rights Watch (http://hrw.org/doc/?t=refugees&document_limit=0,2)
The states that create the refugee problem also have obligations. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Therefore, countries have an obligation to create or restore the circumstances which make it possible for people to return home. It’s up to these countries, with the assistance of the international community, to address the root causes that force people to flee.