Inflammation and stories on UNHCR


In the past decade, access to education has been on the rise in Azerbaijan. As of 2009, the literacy rate in Azerbaijan was 99.5 percent, an impressive number for the Caucasus region. Education in Azerbaijan is well on the way to meeting the Millennium Development Goal 2 of universal primary education in the next few years. However, there are clear, massive inequalities in primary education between refugees and non-refugees.

Azerbaijan has one of the largest displaced populations, as it is currently home to over one million refugees who are internally displaced people (IDP) hoping for asylum status. According to UNICEF, Azerbaijan has the highest IDP population per capita in the entire world; a majority of these people are Azeris, who have been displaced from their own homes due to the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Refugee Children Require Additional Educational Resources

Azerbaijan is leading the Caucasus region in access to education for refugees. In 2003, Azerbaijan began allowing refugees to attend public school. However, since there is a large IDP population, inequities in refugee education are inevitably holding back universal education in Azerbaijan. Many refugee children do not have the same access to education as native children, affecting early, primary and secondary schooling.

A 2010 report indicates that about 20 percent of Chechen refugee children in Azerbaijan do not attend school, and of those who do attend, many cannot understand their instructors due to language barriers. This is common for many refugee populations in Azerbaijan. UNICEF notes that “most refugees have special linguistic needs since many do not speak the national language, straining teachers and school resources.”

It is common for displaced children to experience violence and hardship due to their refugee status, leading to many children requiring additional special psychosocial learning. Additionally, refugee children enter school later and tend to be less prepared for school, compared with the average Azerbaijani student.

Though Azerbaijan is working to ensure increased access to education for all children, many outside organizations have taken initiative to increase educational opportunities for refugees in Azerbaijan. For example, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that oftentimes, refugee children do not go to school because their school materials are too expensive. To remedy this, the UNHCR created a textbook fund, giving more than 8,000 textbooks to about 2,000 refugee children.

In the future, there is a great deal of hope for the state of universal education in Azerbaijan.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

How Many Refugees Are in the World
On Feb. 17, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published its highly anticipated 2016 mid-year trends report. The document provides fresh insight into the global humanitarian crisis and yields a tentative answer to the question: how many refugees are there in the world? The agency has a tall order to fill — roughly 65.3 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced from their homes. In 2015, 24 people were displaced from their homes every minute.

According to the UNHCR, a refugee is “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence.” They are recognized under the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention, the Convention’s 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU Convention. The question remains: how many refugees are there in the world?

Though it is difficult to accurately state how many refugees there are in the world at a given time, the UNHCR statistic reported last month was 15,874,208. It is important to realize that this excludes 640,982 individuals currently in a refugee-like situation. The UNHCR defines this particular sub-category as “groups of persons who are outside their country or territory of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.”

One trend in the report is clear: the numbers have grown. In 2015, the UNHCR mandate stood at 16.1 million refugees with an additional 5.2 million registered with the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). By June 2016, there were 16.5 million refugees and people in refugee-like situations worldwide. Approximately 12.4 million have been assisted by the UNHCR.

The largest concentrations of refugees presented in the report are in the Middle East and North Africa (5,816,454) as well as the rest of Africa (5,275,845). As additional information becomes available, these figures may be adjusted.

The scope of UNHCR’s mandate is global in nature, while the UNRWA’s mandate is specific to refugees living in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Jordan. The UNRWA for Palestine Refugees in the Near East was established in 1949 and continues to provide relief for people in those regions.

Understanding How Many Refugees Exist

To correctly interpret the findings outlined above, several qualifications are warranted. First, the dataset contains the latest available estimates — which are subject to change. The nature of statistics is that data is provisional. Second, the number of refugees is different when those in refugee-like situations are considered in a total summation. Third, the published values in the trend report are based on different government definitions and data collection methodologies within each respective nation. These various interpretations make it increasingly difficult to calculate the total number of refugees in the world. Fourth, the figures only represent the first half of 2016 — there is more data still to analyze. Finally, refugees who have been resettled are not included in these estimates. Although, the UNHCR still monitors these groups to ensure their safety and welfare. Overall, the question — how many refugees are there in the world — is answerable in a relatively statistical sense.

The UNHCR claims that many industrialized nations are not equipped with refugee registers or effective data collection procedures. This means governments are unable to accurately report on the number of refugees within their borders. One step forward in managing this crisis would be to standardize definitions and collection procedures so that precise figures can be ascertained. Without reliable data, there is only guesswork.

With a U.S. federal budget battle brewing, the impact of reduced diplomacy and foreign aid investments could prolong the suffering of millions around the globe. A weakened State Department may be unable to cope with the decades-long fallout of mass disillusionment, fear and anguish. Furthermore, the spectrum of sentiment among U.S. leaders and divided public opinion on matters of foreign policy signals an era of uncertainty regarding the management of the refugee crisis and any progress toward a swift resolution.

JG Federman

Photo: Flickr

 Refugees in Iran
There are more refugees and displaced people now than ever before in history. An estimated 65.3 million people are displaced, with 21.3 million of those being refugees. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Iran.

  1. As of October 2016, the Islamic Republic of Iran was the fifth top refugee-hosting country in the world. The number of refugees in Iran come in after Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon.
  2. Iran only has a small number of refugees that flee to find resettlement elsewhere. Iran has taken on a significant role in the refugee crisis, taking in around 979,400 refugees, most of which have fled from Afghanistan and Iraq.
  3. At the end of 2015, Iran constructed and renovated three schools for the benefit of refugee and host communities. In 2016, UNHCR supported Iran in building four more additional schools and providing literacy classes for approximately 3,000 refugees, both children and adults.
  4. The Supreme Leader of Iran declared, in 2015, that every child in Iran is required to attend school, no matter their documentation status. This allowed around 48,000 undocumented Afghans to enroll in the education system. Over 350,000 Afghan and Iraqi students enrolled for the 2015–2016 school year and that number is only expected to grow.
  5. UNHCR has worked together with Iran’s Ministry of Health to provide Primary Health Care (PHC) to all refugees. PHC includes vaccines, family planning, and care specifically for mothers and children. There were 83,000 refugees enrolled in Iran’s national health insurance program in 2015.
  6. The Iranian government and UNHCR are working together to provide prevention and rehabilitation to those who have been victims of violence. Assistance is given to sexual and gender-based violence victims as well as those victims to substance abuse.
  7. Around 6,000 refugees were set to receive legal assistance from the Iranian government in 2016. UNHCR also invests in infrastructure in areas of Iran that have the largest refugee populations.
  8. Iran’s government has recently shifted its view on formal skills training for refugees. Skills learned in this training will assist in providing the refugees with self-reliance tools. This will not only be valuable for them during their time in Iran, but also if they choose to return to their home country. Around 3,500 refugees were to be enrolled in formal skills training in 2016.
  9. There were 157 health centers and 24 educational facilities planned to be constructed, rehabilitated, or adequately equipped in Iran in 2016.
  10. Iran and nine other developing countries host more of the world’s refugees than any of the world’s wealthiest nations. These 10 countries account for only 2.5% of the world’s economy. Amnesty International said that the wealthiest nations do the least in providing host communities and resources.

Over 20 million refugees, including refugees in Iran, are under the age of 18. Every day, nearly 34,000 people are forced to flee their home countries worldwide. Some organizations that assist Iran and other developing countries in their support of refugees are UNHCR, Amnesty International, and World Relief — among many others.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

 Stateless People
Statelessness is a phenomenon that affects an estimated 10 million people globally. Those affected have been denied citizenship and are refused self-identification and other government documentation necessary for acquiring rights granted by the state.

Photojournalist Greg Constantine stumbled upon the issue of statelessness in 2002. In response, he created the project Nowhere People and for 10 years traveled to the impoverished communities where statelessness is most common. Utilizing his photojournalism skills, Constantine has been able to put a face to the issue of statelessness and share the stories of those affected by it. His mission, he explains, “aims to show the human toll the denial of citizenship has claimed on people and ethnic groups,” and to “provide tangible documentation of proof that millions of people hidden and forgotten all over the world actually exist.” The Nowhere People project has aroused awareness and drawn in advocacy from various organizations that share the same mission.

One of the many organizations fighting statelessness is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In 2014, the UNHCR launched the Campaign to End Statelessness — #IBelong — within 10 years. Through establishing coalitions with governments, organizations and stateless groups, the UNHCR has been able to erect a global alliance that offers supportive assistance for stateless people.

The UNHCR emphasizes that political support and involvement must occur in order for statelessness to end. Suggested political involvement of the states includes law and policy reform, the protection of children from statelessness, ending any discrimination that prohibits nationality, providing protection for migrants and appropriately providing identification documents.

Due to early efforts of the UNHCR, four million stateless people have been granted nationality since 2003. Following the launch of the Campaign to End Statelessness, the UNHCR has succeeded in expanding its budget and in 2015, held a budget of $68 million. Additionally, they have been able to send out specialists to foster relations and work collectively with other organizations and national governments.

Stateless people face insecurities every day surrounding their livelihood. Basic human rights are jeopardized, safety is uncertain, poverty is a reality and opportunity is hindered. Projects such as Nowhere People, along with the efforts of UNHCR and other allied organizations, not only offer hope that those experiencing statelessness will one day obtain nationality but also provides a nearer future for efficiently managing the progress of moving out of poverty.

Amy Williams

Photo: Flickr

Somali Refugees
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Somalia “remains the epicenter of one of the world’s largest displacement crises.” Of the approximately 11 million people living in Somalia, well over one million are internally displaced while another one million Somalis are registered as refugees in the Horn of Africa and Yemen. Somali refugees have suffered the consequences of a “failed state,” enduring decades of political turmoil, severe drought and the presence of extremist groups.

Because Somalia is one of the countries specified in President Trump’s executive order regarding the immigration ban, it’s important to understand the implications of the country’s situation. Here are 10 facts about Somali refugees:

  1. Since 1991, when President Mohammed Siad Barre fled the country to make way for a power struggle between two warring clans, Somalia has lacked a stable government. Fighting among warlords and rebel groups has made it extremely difficult to restore peace in the country.
  2. It has been difficult to provide Somalia with the international aid that it needs. The country became so dangerous that the U.N. pulled its international aid workers from Somalia in 2001. In 2005, the U.N. World Food Program shipments to Somalia were stopped because they were being seized by rebel forces. Today, it is still difficult to ensure that aid shipments do not fall into the wrong hands.
  3. The total number of native-born Somalis living outside their country more than doubled between 1990 and 2015. The number increased from approximately 850,000 to two million.
  4. Today, there are close to 150,000 Somali immigrants and refugees living in the U.S., and under the Obama administration, nearly 43,000 Somali refugees came to the U.S.
  5. This decade, more than 260,000 people have died in Somalia as the result of severe drought, which has contributed to a lack of clean water and the disintegration of agriculture across the country. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated in a 2016 report that one in 12 Somalis struggles to meet their needs regarding food and water. The report also stated that approximately 305,000 children under the age of five were suffering from malnutrition.
  6. Somalia’s neighboring countries host the largest number of its refugees. According to data collected by the UNHCR, there are just under 330,000 Somali refugees registered in Kenya, 241,000 in Ethiopia and 255,000 in Yemen. Thousands more have found temporary living situations in Tanzania, Uganda, Djibouti and Eritrea.
  7. Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world, was home to more than half a million Somalis in 2015. The camp is located in northeastern Kenya and was initially set up as a temporary living situation for refugees fleeing conflict in Somalia and Sudan. Unfortunately for many, the camp has become more permanent. Refugees are often stuck in camps for several decades, unable to emigrate to another country or return to their own. Kenya now plans to close the camp as it has become a breeding ground for extremist groups.
  8. Islamist group Al-Shabaab has a strong presence in Somalia, initially gaining support by promising safety and security to citizens. Al-Shabaab’s credibility quickly declined due to violence and the denial of Western aid. Al-Shabaab’s presence in Somalia has contributed heavily to the refugee crisis, committing senseless acts of violence that contribute further to the chaos.
  9. According to the U.S. federal budget proposal for 2017, Somalia will receive $116.8 million in funding for security assistance and even less in humanitarian aid.
  10. Somali refugees around the world have been resettled and have succeeded in creating productive and successful lives in Western countries. Apart from the many Somalis living in the U.S., around 280,000 Somali immigrants live in European countries.

Somalia continues to be one of the most prominent sources of the world’s refugees, as it has been for several decades. The call for humanitarian assistance and the need for development in the country is at an all-time high, especially considering the possibility that, under the new administration, Somali refugees may not be allowed to enter the United States.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Bhutan Refugees
Situated between India and China, Bhutan is an isolated Buddhist kingdom that had generated one of the highest numbers of refugees in the world compared to its population. Since 1991, one sixth of Bhutan’s people have resettled in Nepal, India and other countries.

  1. Bhutan refugees are called Lhotshampas, or ‘southerners.’ Lhotshampa people are Bhutanese people of Nepalese ancestry. In the 1980s, Lhotshampas were seen as a threat to political order and were evicted from Bhutan in the 1990s to settle in Nepal.
  2. The government of Nepal and UNHCR has managed seven refugee camps since the 1990s. In 2008, the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR jointly started refugee resettlement programs throughout the world.
  3. In 2007, more then 100,000 refugees from Bhutan lived in the seven camps of the Jhapa and Morang districts in eastern Nepal. Now, just two camps remain and the refugee population is less than 18,000 people.
  4. A group of eight countries — Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States of America — came together in 2007 to create new life opportunities for Bhutan refugees.
  5. Bhutan refugees have to go through an interview and selection process. The first refugees settled included women at risk, survivors of violence and torture and refugees with medical needs such as speech and hearing impairments.
  6. Some Bhutan refugees requested that the Nepal government send them back home. These refugees are unwilling to settle in a third country; however, the Secretary of Beldangi Camp Sanchahang Limbu said that he fears there would be no one to care for the refugees once they returned home.
  7. As of November 2015, 5,554 Bhutan refugees were resettled in Australia, 6,500 in Canada, 874 in Denmark, 1,002 in New Zealand, 327 in the Netherlands, 566 in Norway, 358 in the United Kingdom and 84,819 in the U.S.

These migrating people hope for a final destination to their journey, and countries across the world strive to help them attain this goal.

Jacqueline Venuti

Photo: Flickr

Democratic Republic of the Congo Refugees

According to the BBC, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has suffered from political instability, insecurity and violence since its independence in 1960. As a result, the country hosts a considerable amount of Democratic Republic of the Congo refugees.

From 1997 to 2003, the country experienced a violent civil war. In addition, the Congolese army fought Rwandan forces and rebel groups near the Rwandan border. Multiple armed groups continue to fight among themselves and with the government for control of the resource-rich eastern provinces.

The extreme level of violence and human rights abuses in the eastern DRC have caused thousands to flee the area. Here are 10 facts about Democratic Republic of the Congo refugees:

  1. At the end of 2015, the UNHCR identified 495,724 DRC refugees. They live scattered among the Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia and Malawi.
  2. Congolese refugees are predominantly from the provinces of North and South Kivu, Orientale and Katanga in northeastern DRC. Fighting between government and rebel forces has been prevalent in that region for decades.
  3. The Cultural Orientation Resource Centre’s (COR) data on the DRC places 73 percent of Congolese refugees under the age of 25. Many of these individuals are single parents or the head of their households.
  4. Living conditions for most DRC refugees in host countries are harsh, unhealthy and unsafe. Additionally, these conditions are likely to deteriorate further as more refugees flee the DRC. For example, the COR reports that Rwandan refugee camps are extremely overcrowded and lack recreational and employment opportunities. This results in “high rates of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), prostitution, early pregnancy and school dropouts.”
  5. Many refugees suffer from a high degree of trauma from exposure to violence, torture and assault and require professional medical attention.
  6. Most of the refugees are from the historically persecuted Banyamulenge, Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.
  7. Congolese refugees face very limited employment opportunities in many host countries. This makes integration unlikely and increasing their dependence on foreign aid. According to the European Resettlement Network, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia have imposed restrictions to prevent Congolese refugees from obtaining work.
  8. In Uganda, the country hosting the largest proportion of Congolese refugees, “the settlements resemble agricultural village life back in the DRC, with small plots available for farming.” Education and SGBV prevention and response services are also available. This will allow refugees to provide for themselves, even when there are scarce employment opportunities.
  9. Although repatriation remains unlikely, the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework in DRC and the Region (PSC) initiated a program for voluntary repatriation for Congolese refugees in 2014. If this program is successful it could mean the return of thousands of refugees to their homes.
  10. The European Resettlement Network claims “160,000 refugees have been identified for resettlement” in the U.S. and Europe. This massive resettlement plan will greatly reduce the operational strain on many overcrowded refugee camps.

In order to improve the living conditions of Democratic Republic of the Congo, refugees need additional aid in countries like Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Host countries must continue to provide (and improve) education and employment opportunities.

Furthermore, as in Uganda’s refugee settlements, Democratic Republic of the Congo refugees need the means and the training that will allow them to provide for themselves in times of employment scarcity. Consequently, this will reduce refugees’ dependence on foreign aid. It will also increase their ability to integrate and improve their standards of living.

Christina Egerstrom

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Central African Republic

The recent internal conflict in Central African Republic has prompted many of its citizens to flee to neighboring nations or safer places within the country. After settling into host communities, UNHCR (the United Nations refugee agency) has been able to provide assistance to the refugees and help them acclimate to new areas.

Here are six facts that you should know about refugees in the Central African Republic:

  1. Nearly 418,000 refugees in the Central African Republic are internally displaced because of the current conflict in the country. However, even prior to these issues many neighboring cities and countries were already hosting refugees from the Central African Republic. The new influx of refugees has prompted new response plans to accommodate these people, such as the CAR Regional Refugee Response Plan.
  2. Including those who are internally displaced, there are approximately 2.7 million people who are in need of humanitarian assistance, as well as 2.4 million children who are affected by the crisis.
  3. Almost one million citizens have fled their homes to seek refuge in local mosques and churches, or as far as Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After these journeys, many arrive having endured brutal attacks from heavily armed fighters along the way and are suffering from extreme malnutrition.
  4. The majority of these refugees are able to successfully settle into host villages or refugee camps. Here, UNHCR and partners provide basic social services and help the refugees to integrate into their new homes.
  5. UNHCR has received $24.7 million in aid to assist refugees in the Central African Republic. However, this is only 11 percent of the original $225.5 million that the organization appealed for. Foreign aid continues to help refugees become comfortable in their new surroundings, providing for basic needs and protection while they acclimatize.
  6. However, the basic needs of the refugees in the Central African Republic surpass the amount of aid that has been provided. More than 20 percent of the refugees arriving in camps are vulnerable with specific needs and health issues, such as malaria and malnutrition. While the UNHCR teams work to provide things such as emergency supplies and medical care, there is not enough funding to provide optimal assistance.

While UNHCR cannot provide the amount of assistance necessary, it has still been successful at helping refugees to acclimate to their host communities. As the internal conflict in the Central African Republic continues, foreign aid will continue to assist those who turn to host communities for refuge.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Flickr

Refugee camps

Refugee camps are supposed to be temporary living settlements for displaced people fleeing violence and persecution from their home countries. While the accommodations within refugee camps are built on short-term solutions, the idea of “temporary” for refugees grows obsolete as their living situations become more permanent.

A refugee spends an average of 12 years living in a camp according to the New York Times. These camps face their own significant problems. In the last 10 years, the number of displaced people in the world tripled. Over 60 million people are now displaced, said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Refugee camps are constantly subjected to insufficient funding and support from the international community, overcrowding, scarcity of food, shortage of clean water and poor sanitation.

Without adequate food, refugees are susceptible to chronic malnutrition, which increases their risk of disease or illness. While the UNHCR recommends a daily minimum of 20 liters per person per day, many refugee camps fail to meet these standards. A lack of clean water and poor sanitation systems result in more diseases, such as diarrhea and cholera.

Proactive health measures, however, are being taken. To combat malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies, some refugee camps have implemented community gardens. At the Meheba refugee camp in Zambia, for example, refugees can grow their own food and add fruits and vegetables to their diets. Calls for improvements in both the latrine and sufficient waste disposal systems have also been made, as these will not only improve sanitation but also prevent disease.

The Kilis Refugee Camp in Turkey resembles more of a permanent shelter. There are no tents, but sturdy containers instead. The camp has amenities that many others lack; electricity, maintenance, a clinic and grocery stores. Within the grounds, there are also schools and counselors.

However nice the camp is, the prolonged stay of many of the refugees makes it more difficult to maintain psychological well-being. The placement of refugee camps away from society and the increasing length of stay by their residents make it hard for the people to remain engaged. Without employment and integration, refugees cannot practice their skill sets or feel connected to the local community.

UNHCR Engineer and Physical Planning & Shelter Officer Anicet Adjahossou found that one solution to strengthen community building within refugee camps was to work with anthropologists and refugees to redesign the standard refugee camp grid format into a new housing layout.

In 2012, Adjahoosu worked with UNHCR at the Dollo Ado refugee camp in Ethiopia to organize the homes into sets of U-shaped enclosures. The innovative arrangement prompts more family interaction and allows for larger communal areas. Also included were locations for schools, water distribution points, markets and health centers.

In addition to improving the living conditions in refugee camps, more aid must be given to prevent and end conflicts, so that we do not continue to see an increase in people forced to flee their homes in search of safety. Luckily, it appears that advocates like Anicet Adjehossou are taking the lead.

Erica Rawles

Photo: Flickr

Refugees from AfghanistanRefugees from Afghanistan have been fleeing to nearby countries since the Soviet War in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Many of these refugees have been unable to return to Afghanistan because of their vulnerability to the security issues that plague the area.

While many refugees from Afghanistan reside in Pakistan or Iran, the prospects for local integration are unfortunately low, as they have little to no access to legal status services. This is just one of many obstacles that refugees face, so here are 10 facts that illuminate the struggles of refugees from Afghanistan:

    1. Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria contribute more than half of all refugees in the world.
    2. Aside from refugees displaced outside of Afghanistan, there are approximately one million people who are internally displaced as well.
    3. Iran and Pakistan are home to the largest Afghan refugee population, according to the UNHCR’s mandate. Iran hosts nearly 900,000 refugees, while Pakistan hosts over 1.5 million.
    4. The majority of these refugees from Afghanistan live on the average wage of less than $2 per day, which can buy little more than ten pieces of bread.
    5. The UNHCR distributes food to many refugees outside of Kabul, while the World Food Programme sends electronic food vouchers to approximately 4,500 displaced families inside Kabul.

  1. There are over 3.5 million people living in camps just outside of Kabul, which consist of little more than mud huts and run-down tents.
  2. Many NGOs have built schools and clinics in these camps to assist the refugees when their government does not.
  3. Between 2002 and 2012, UNHCR created the largest voluntary repatriation program that helped 3.8 million refugees from Afghanistan return back to their home out of Pakistan.
  4. Since 2002, over 5.7 million refugees have been able to return to Afghanistan.
  5. When some refugees cannot return, the Refugee Contact Croup on Iran has worked with the Iranian government to help refugees become resettled in their new homes.

There are many misconceptions surrounding refugees from Afghanistan. Refugees encounter many struggles while fleeing from insecure areas. However, the assistance of NGOs and local communities can ease their worries and help them to acclimate to their new lives or return to their home countries.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Flickr