Refugees and Asylum: Global Figures for 2002
Refugees and Asylum: Global Figures for 2002
Source: "Refugees and Asylum: Global Figures for 2002," Pocket World in Figures 2005. London: The Economist Group, 2005.
About the Author: These tables are reproduced from Pocket World in Figures 2005, a book produced by The Economist, a London-based weekly news magazine devoted to economics and politics.
Refugees and other displaced persons are created by wars, repressive governments, natural disasters, poverty, and other factors. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, refugees of one sort or another numbered in the millions worldwide; the tables from this primary source give an idea of the scope of the problem as of 2002.
The figures in this table are derived from figures compiled by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). The office of the UNHCR was created by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 1950 and tasked with resettling the 1.2 million European refugees displaced by World War II. The mission of the UNHCR was renewed by the UN every five years for over half a century, as refugees continued to be created in many parts of the world. In 2003, the traditional five-year limit was removed and the UNHCR's mission was extended indefinitely. As of 2006, the UNHCR employed over 6,500 personnel who worked in 116 countries attempting to help 19.2 million displaced people. The agency won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954 and 1981.
REFUGEES AND ASYLUM
[Below, units are thousands; e.g., "574.4" means 574,400.]
|Largest refugee nationalities|
|6.||West Bank and Gaza||428.7|
|15.||Serbia & Montenegro||161.3|
|Countries with largest refugee populations|
|6.||Serbia and Montenegro||354.4|
|Nationality of asylum applications in industrialized countries|
|2.||Serbia & Montenegro||33.1|
|Asylum applications in industrialized countries|
Displaced persons are generally categorized as refugees, internally displaced persons, or stateless persons. Collectively, people in these groups are referred to by the UNHCR as "persons of concern." The number of persons of concern rose by thirteen percent from early 2004 to early 2005, that is, from seventeen million to 19.2 million.
Refugees are defined as persons who have fled persecution or war in their home countries to seek refuge in other states. There were about 9.2 million refugees worldwide in 2004. In that year, according to the UNHCR, about 1.5 million refugees returned to their homelands voluntarily, including 940,500 who returned to Afghanistan and 194,000 to Iraq. About 232,100 new refugees were created in the same period, however, mostly in Sudan, where the government-sponsored militias are (according to the U.S. government and other observers) committing genocide against the inhabits of the Darfur region.
Some refugees apply formally for sanctuary in some state other than their home country, in which case they are asylum seekers. Asylum seekers usually apply for asylum in nearby, relatively peaceful, prosperous countries where human rights are usually respected; two thirds of asylum applications are made to European countries.
Internally displaced persons are people who have been driven from their homes by violence or other disasters but who remain inside their home country. The Sudan genocide in the Darfur region has created about 1.8 internally displaced persons in that country. In Colombia, conflict between government and rebel forces, in what the United Nations called in 2006 "the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere," has produced over two million internally displaced persons plus many refugees to neighboring states, including 26,000 to Ecuador since 2000.
Stateless persons are refugees or asylum seekers who do not have citizenship in any state and have no home state to which they can return.
The UNHCR notes that many factors drive people to move from their homes, whether they stay in-country or flee to a neighboring state. Some suffer extreme poverty and wish to move elsewhere in order to survive; some are displaced by environmental destruction, development projects, persecution because of religion, race, or ethnicity, or human trafficking (e.g., sexual slavery). The UNHCR stated in 2006 that "the world has witnessed a decline in armed conflict from a peak in the early 1990s," with correspondingly fewer refugees caused by armed conflict. However, it also noted that the global 'war on terror' has complicated many refugee crises, as the war on terror has been cited by various states to "justify new or intensified military offensives" in Aceh (in Indonesia), Afghanistan, Chechnya (in the Russian Federation), Georgia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Palestine, with the United States and European states being less likely to grant asylum due to anti-terror measures.
The UNHCR also states that economic globalization is causing many regions to undergo massive social upheavals, which in turn cause mass international migration. The system of international agreements and corporate freedoms often termed free trade allows for the rapid movement of goods, money, and corporations across national boundaries, but there is no corresponding freedom of movement for workers who are displaced by globalization's disruption of traditional markets in their home areas. Many persons therefore become illegal migrants, like the twelve million undocumented migrants in the United States. A migrant is anyone who lives outside their birth country for a year or more. Migrants are not necessarily synonymous with refugees; there are about 175 million migrants worldwide, about 3% of the world's population, but only about nineteen million refugees (still a tremendous number—about a third larger than the entire population of New England).
Many refugees end up living for long periods of time in camps or other confined zones, usually located in unstable border areas. Only voluntary repatriation (return to the home country), acceptance by the country of refuge, or resettlement to some other country offers a permanent solution to the refugee dilemma. An example of a largely successful repatriation program is Liberia, where after the end of a fourteen-year civil war in 2003, repatriation of over 300,000 refugees from neighboring countries began under UNHCR auspices in 2004 and was expected to run through 2007. To support the returning population, the UN oversaw scores of development projects focusing on water, sanitation, schools, and infrastructure.
Newman, Edward and Joanna van Selm, eds. Refugees and Forced Displacement: International Security, Human Vulnerability, and the State. New York: United Nations University Press, 2003.
Wilson, Scott. "Iraqi Refugees Overwhelm Syria." The Washington Post. February 3, 2005.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "The State of the World's Refugees 2006." 2006. 〈http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/〉 (accessed May 5, 2006).