Understanding the Worldwide Refugee Crisis

Understanding the Worldwide Refugee Crisis

What exactly is a refugee, where are refugees coming from, and why must they flee their countries of origin? Here is a brief list of answers to these basic questions.

Amanda Luzzader
Amanda Luzzader
Content Writer
Understanding the Worldwide Refugee Crisis

According to the website World Population Review, there are presently 25.9 million refugees around the world, half of whom are children. These are the highest numbers of refugees recorded to date.

In the United States, refugee acceptance is at an all-time low because of recent changes in U.S. Department of State refugee policies. As of September, fewer than 12,000 refugees had been accepted into the United States in 2021. This is expected to change very soon, however. In 2022, the United States is prepared to welcome 125,000 refugees, which may represent the highest number of refugees accepted into the United States since the early 1990s.

Many nonprofit organizations in the United States are geared to assist refugees. Some provide shelter, food, and other basic necessities while others assist refugees with the complex and often challenging process of resettlement. It would be helpful if everyone working to assist refugees could understand the refugee crisis, but the geography, politics, ethnicities, and conflicts involved are often densely complicated.

What exactly is a refugee, where are refugees coming from, and why must they flee their countries of origin? Here is a brief list of answers to these basic questions.

What is a refugee?

When a person flees their homeland because their life or liberty is at risk, they appeal to a country or the United Nations to become officially designated as a refugee. The United Nations' Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, commonly referred to as as the 1951 Refugee Convention, defines a refugee as a person who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of nationality "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion." The 1951 Refugee Convention also prohibits signatory states to "refoul" refugees, which is to expel refugees or force them to return to their countries of origin.

What is an asylum seeker?

An asylum seeker is someone who has fled their country of origin but has yet to find a country's or the United Nations' approval to be registered or designated as a refugee.

Where are refugees coming from?

The seven countries that currently account for the most refugees are listed below:

  • Syria (6.7 million)

  • Afghanistan (2.7 million)

  • South Sudan (2.3 million)

  • Myanmar (1.1 million)

  • Somalia (900,000)

  • Sudan (725,000)

  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo (720,300)

Why must refugees flee their countries of origin?

The reasons are as varied as the cultures, people, and countries, but most have to do with war and internal strife. Brief summaries of problems within troubled regions are included below:

The Middle East: 

Most of the refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey are attempting to escape the Syrian Civil War, other regional armed conflicts (such as in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan), ethnic intolerance, and intense religious fundamentalism. The roots of these conflicts are very deep in some cases and have to do with ancient ethnic and religious affiliations. Many refugees in these countries live in refugee camps within their countries of origin but have appealed to the United Nations for asylum and resettlement.

*Africa: *

Most refugees from countries such as Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan are attempting to escape civil wars in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where severe economic and political instability have led to successive uprisings, rebellions, and military coups.

*Southeast Asia: *

Most refugees in Southeast Asia at this time are members of a Muslim ethnic minority group called the Rohingya, who are fleeing from Myanmar (formerly Burma). The Rohingya have been denied citizenship and human rights in Myanmar since 1982, and they have recently been victims of systematic and widespread violence.

Sources:

https://www.state.gov/refugee-admissions/

https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/refugees-by-country