Refugees are people who are forced to leave their home countries because of war, ethnic violence, or other form of persecution. Internally displaced persons are people who are forced to leave their homes, but stay within their country’s borders. The plight of these refugees and internally displaced persons is a world crisis—at any given time, there are millions of people who have been forced from their homes. The group Human Rights Watch estimated that in 2001, the world held 14.9 million refugees and 22 million internally displaced persons.
Several factors can force people to leave their homes and their countries. War and racial and religious intolerance are common factors. Right now, about two million have fled their homes in Sudan because of violence in the Darfur region. Fighting between rebels and the Sudanese government has resulted in the death of over 200,000 people there. The refugees are living in refugee camps in Sudan and neighboring Chad. The War in Iraq has driven over four million Iraqis from their homes. In Myanmar, human rights abuses have forced about 500,000 people to become refugees.
Refugees face many difficult challenges. When they leave their homes, they leave behind family and friends, jobs, and most of the things they own. Every aspect of their lives is altered. The trip can be dangerous, especially if their country is at war, and the places they end up staying might not be much better off than the places they left. Many refugees end up living in camps where life is difficult. They must rely on aid groups to provide them with their daily needs. It can be months or even years before they are able to return to their homes.
- UN Hints at Iraq Refugee Returns
The war in Iraq has created two million Iraqi refugees and another two million internally displaced persons. The UN is saying that security has improved enough in the country that it might soon be safe enough for some to return to their homes.
(Source: BBC, February 16, 2008)
- Darfur Town Emptied after Attack, Militia Roams
An attack on a town in Sudan forces the town’s entire population of 25,000 to flee. The 200 people who remain are mostly the elderly and women with children who were unable to escape.
(Source: Reuters, February 15, 2008)
- Refugees flee from Darfur to Chad
About 12,000 refugees from Sudan’s troubled region of Darfur have fled into Chad, a neighboring country. But fighting in Chad has endangered the refugees there as well.
(Source: BBC, February 10, 2008)
- BBC Best Link: The Road to Refuge
Site includes an overview of the plight of refugees, images of refugees journeying to safety and living in camps, and first-hand accounts of the experiences of refugees.
- Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and Asylum Seekers
Site explains the plight of refugees around the world, and includes articles on current refugee news. Also includes links to documents concerning refugees, broken down by world region.
(Source: Human Rights Watch, February 18, 2008)
Critical Thinking Questions
- Causes and Effects
Identify three places in the world where a significant number of people have had to become refugees. What conflict caused these people to flee their homes?
Choose one particular group of refugees and describe what life is like for them in a refugee camp.
- Draw Conclusions
What further problems do you think people face when they return home after living as refugees?