Inflammation and stories on UNHCR


Tens of thousands of Malians have made their way to Algeria, Togo, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania and Burkina Faso to avoid oppression from armed conflicts between the Malian army, members of the Tuareg movement and other regional factions. In January 2012, a military coup exacerbated this exodus. Ever since this coup, violence in Mali has continued despite the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation that was signed in June 2015. This has hampered the return of displaced and stateless Malians who are spread across the continent. Prejudice, persecution and ethnic stigmatization continue to hinder the development of peace in the region.

10 Facts About Refugees in Burkina Faso

  1. As of March 2017, there were 32,972 individual refugees and 8,787 families residing in the country, according to government statistics and sources from The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Comparatively, in late December 2014, 32,097 refugees were in the country.
  2. Most refugees in Burkina Faso are women (51.6 percent), individuals between 18-59 years of age (40.5 percent) and children between the ages of 5 and 11 (26.28 percent).
  3. With respect to ethnicity, most refugees in Burkina Faso are Tuareg (75 percent). Over the last year, more than 2,000 refugees from northern Mali were registered. General regional insecurity, gender-based violence and food shortages are largely to blame.
  4. Fifty-seven percent of refugees do not have an occupation (8,801 males and 10,098 females). Most men are breeders (11.49 percent or 3,620) and most women are cleaners (12.17 percent or 3,964). In the capital, most refugee artisans, such as leather workers and blacksmiths, earn income from tourists and municipal needs. UNHCR provides financial assistance to artisans who organize themselves into groups.
  5. Refugees in Burkina Faso reside in two primary camps: Mentao and Goudoubou. As of March 31, 2017, Mentao holds 12,658 individuals and 3,534 families. Comparatively, Goudoubou has 10,131 refugees and 2,863 families.

  1. Every refugee within the Mentao and Goudoubou encampments has access to healthcare.
  2. A large percentage of refugees in Burkina Faso (80.33 percent) have a primary education – more than any other educational level. Roughly 46 percent of refugees are students (1,820 males and 1,300 females).
  3. According to the UNHCR April 2017 West Africa Funding Update, Burkina Faso has only received 16 percent of its needed funds – there is a gap of $17.8 million. Additionally, only 19 percent of the funding needed to support all West African refugees has been received. A total of $231.7 million is still needed.
  4. Based on March 2017 figures, a total of 776 individual refugees and 251 families live in the city of Bobo-Dioulasso, while in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, 607 refugees (mostly men) and 228 families have taken up residence. What distinguishes urban refugees from those in rural settings or encampments? The answer is twofold. Firstly, their skills are said to be more developed than those in traditional camps. Secondly, they have greater access to employment opportunities because of those skills. Together, these elements mean urban refugees have the means to support themselves, which reduces the need for humanitarian aid.
  5. In Burkina Faso, the National Commission for Refugees (CONAREF) and UNHCR provide financial, logistical and healthcare assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers (in addition to many other NGOs and government agencies). However, if refugees wish to return home, they can waive the protection and health care provided by these entities.

At present, the UNHCR plans to continue its registration of refugees in Burkina Faso. This includes identity cards, biometric CTVs and refugee certificates. This should enable the government to improve its data collection activities on refugees, stateless persons and those at risk of statelessness. Statistical accuracy will enable UNHCR, government agencies and non-governmental organizations to improve their quality of humanitarian assistance in the region.

JG Federman

Photo: Flickr


According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, there are almost 2,152,000 internally displaced Nigerian refugees as of Dec. 31, 2015. The displacement has been caused by Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram.

Boko Haram is an Islamic terrorist group that has been trying to enforce Sharia law onto Nigeria and other Northern African countries. Despite its violent strategic nature, the military campaign led by the newly elected president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, has proven successful in recent efforts.

As reported by the International Crisis Group, Nigeria has been more successful in fending off Boko Haram and it has become less of a threat. Nigerian forces have been able to clear Boko Haram out of some occupied territory, thus opening up opportunities for citizens to return to their homes and humanitarian efforts to distribute much-needed aid.

The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) states that there are an estimated 8.5 million Nigerians refugees requiring humanitarian aid in 2017. Thankfully, the head Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has brought up a way for ensuring protection and solutions for the growing population Nigerians that are returning to their previously occupied homes. Working closely with the Nigerian government, Grandi presented a plan called “Directions on Protection, Access and Solutions for IDPs and Returnees in North-East Nigeria.”

The plan prioritizes voluntary returns and protection from gender-based violence to ensure the dignity and safety of those receiving aid. Access to both therapy and legal support, specifically to settle cases of unclaimed or claimed land, was also outlined in the plan. The main goal of UNHCR seems to be to establish social harmony among the tense community.  Goals of “empowerment,” “community reconciliation” and “gender equality” were also included.

With the U.N. raising more than $670 million in pledges that will help support aid for Nigerian refugees and their neighboring countries over the next two years, the victims of the widespread terrorism in North Africa will now have new found funding and resources to help them adjust back into their home lives.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Flickr


The small number of refugees New Zealand takes in ranks them 90th per capita in resettlement. After making adjustments considering wealth and population, the ranking falls to 116th. Many countries in Europe are critical of the small number of refugees New Zealand takes in. Here is a look at 10 facts about New Zealand refugees that may be a surprise.

  1. The New Zealand government works with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to offer refugees permanent resettlement in New Zealand.
  2. In 2016, after more than 30 years, New Zealand increased their refugee quota from 750 to 1000.
  3. New Zealand accepts refugees from the following major groups: Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Rohingya and Syria.
  4. Refugees undergo background checks before being allowed to live in New Zealand.
  5. The needs and services required by refugees are determined prior to their arrival.
  6. Refugees must complete a six-week reception program at Auckland’s Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre (MRRC). The program helps refugees build social and coping skills and provides information regarding work and employment expectations.
  7. The Refugee Resettlement Strategy has five goals:
    · All refugees of working age have a job and income or are supported by a family member with a paying job.
    · All refugees actively participate in life in New Zealand and have a keen sense of belonging.
    · Ensure the health and well-being of refugees and their families.
    · Refugees can speak English well enough to allow them to participate in school and daily activities.
    · Refugees live in homes that are safe, secure, clean and affordable without assistance from government housing.
  8. Refugees settle in six regions: Auckland, Hamilton, Manawatu, Wellington, Nelson and Dunedin.
  9. Family reunification is when a refugee living in New Zealand applies for a family member to receive a visa. Refugees coming to New Zealand on a Refugee Family Support Category visa do not receive financial assistance from the government or any of the resettlement assistance provided to refugees.
  10. Refugees who fear serious harm or cruel treatment if they return to their country of origin can apply for asylum. In 2013-14 New Zealand granted refugee status to 69 asylum seekers — a dismally low number when compared to countries such as Hungary (129, 203) and Sweden (228,601).

The Syrian refugee crisis in addition to 59.5 million people forced to flee their country of origin have drawn the attention of the world and highlighted the woefully small number of refugees New Zealand is willing to take in. These 10 Facts about New Zealand refugees make it clear that they have a strategy that helps refugees make a smooth transition from living in their country of origin to living in New Zealand. Sadly, it also highlights the unwillingness of New Zealand to stand with their international partners and do their fair share.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr

Ten Facts About United Arab Emirates Refugees
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation consisting of seven states that has grown into the most important economic center in the Middle East. The UAE is heavily dependent on oil and was dependent on the fishing and pearl industries prior to 1950. The UAE is very diverse and has become a trading and tourism hub for the region and heavily controls its media content — which includes foreign publications — before distribution. Here are ten facts about United Arab Emirates refugees.

Ten Facts About United Arab Emirates Refugees

  1. The UAE agreed in September 2016 to take in 15,000 Syrian refugees over a five-year period.
  2. The UAE is not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention and legally is not obligated to allow refugees to stay in the federation.
  3. The UAE allowed 123,000 Syrians to relocate to the federation since the start of the conflict in 2011, but these have been mostly families and professionals on work visas.
  4. The UAE is the largest donor to humanitarian and development aid in the world on a per capita basis. The UAE has donated $750 million since 2012.
  5. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) does not count refugees in the Gulf States due to these states not signing the Refugee Convention and therefore any refugee relocations are not handled by UNHCR.
  6. Keeping track of refugees in the Gulf States is difficult without data and they are referred to as Arab brothers and sisters in distress.
  7. United Arab Emirates refugees are given a permanent residence and freedom of movement to maintain their dignity. These refugees are also given access to work, medical care and education at no cost.
  8. In March 2017, Amnesty International noted that the UAE in addition to the other Gulf States had offered zero resettlement places to refugees seeking asylum in that federation.
  9. The UAE funds a number of humanitarian projects, such as Al Mreijeb Fhoud Refugee Camp in Jordan. This camp includes a field hospital with surgery, cardiology and pediatrics units that have treated about 500,000 refugees.
  10. UAE refugees fleeing conflict often do not want to be recognized or referred to as refugees in the Gulf States and tend to prefer to go to Europe to seek safety.

There continues to be an open conflict with UAE refugees and how the Gulf States will continue to handle these efforts without the aid of the U.N. However, the UAE maintains that it is offering the best aid to the millions of refugees that seek asylum in the federation.

Rochelle R. Dean


The U.N. projects that there are more displaced people in the world now than at any other time since World War II. Most of these refugees come from Africa, which has put large demands on European and African countries. Future refugee projections continue to rise due to ongoing conflicts and the effects of climate change. Case studies in Sierra Leone show us the importance of rehabilitating governmental institutions and economic markets in conflict-prone regions.

10 Facts About Sierra Leone Refugees.

  1. Thousands of natives fled their country during a bloody civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002.
  2. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF), with support from the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), attempted to overthrow the president at the time, Joseph Momoh.
  3. This 11-year civil war resulted in 50,000 deaths and the internal displacement of two million people. Among the displaced, 490,000 sought refuge in the neighboring countries of Liberia and Guinea.
  4. In 2008, the U.N. High Commission for Refugees conducted a campaign in Guinea. The project aimed to inform Sierra Leone refugees of the upcoming withdrawal of their refugee status.
  5. The UNHCR convened in 2008, and found that conditions in Sierra Leone had returned to normal. This meant that Sierra Leoneans who fled their country during the civil war in the early 1990s would no longer be considered refugees because the root causes of the Sierra Leone refugee problem no longer existed.
  6. This decision was reached after an analysis of the fundamental and positive changes that have taken place in Sierra Leone. A peace agreement was struck between the Joseph Momoh government and the RUF in January of 2002, marking the beginning of these changes.
  7. Under a previous UNHCR initiative, a voluntary repatriation operation that took place from September 2000 to July 2004, more than 179,000 Sierra Leone refugees were able to return home.
  8. There are 13,500 refugees from Sierra Leone who continue to live abroad, 1,825 of whom are living in Guinea, and 2,368 in Liberia.
  9. The UNHCR voluntary repatriation operation for refugees from Sierra Leone ended in July 2004. This program offered financial assistance to refugees to assist in transit and resettlement in Sierra Leone.
  10. The U.N. Development Program (UNDP) continued to work with the local government to ensure that returning refugees were integrating effectively, without stressing markets. Additionally, UNDP continued to meet the needs and priorities of the government through aligning long-term development programs and non-governmental relief actors facilitating recovery.

Sierra Leone ended its 11-year long civil war in 2002 and has since re-established democratic institutions. This restructuring process strengthened Sierra Leone’s government and was essential to the reception of 60,000 Liberian refugees in 2005. Sierra Leone is a shining example for current conflict-rode regions as they look towards the future.

Josh Ward

Photo: Flickr


Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister, said Japan must improve its own living standards before concerning itself with Syrian refugees. Human rights groups and advocacy groups are highly critical of Japan’s refugee policies. Here are 10 facts about Japan refugees.

10 Facts About Japan Refugees

  1. The number of foreign people applying for refugee status in 2016 was up 44 percent, at an all-time high of just fewer than 11,000.
  2. Japan only accepted 28 refugees in 2016, an increase of one from 2015. Most of those applications came from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Bangladesh.
  3. In 2016, 97 people were allowed to remain in Japan for humanitarian reasons. They were not granted refugee status, however. According to Brian Barbour of the Japan Association for Refugees, 99 percent of asylum applications are denied.
  4. People applying for refugee status in 2016 included: 1,829 Indonesians, 1,451 Nepalese, 1,412 Filipinos, 1,143 Turks, 1,072 Vietnamese, 938 Sri Lankans, 650, Myanmarese, 470 Indians, 318 Cambodians and 289 Pakistanis.
  5. Japan’s population is shrinking and along with it, Japan’s labor force. Still, Japan does not accept unskilled workers, and there are no plans to increase the number of applicants granted refugee status. Japan has introduced a category that will allow for a large number of unskilled workers as trainees. Also, people with a student visa are allowed to work up to 28 hours per week.
  6. Only 69 Syrians applied for refugee status between 2011 and 2016 in Japan. In order to apply, applicants must go to Japan.
  7. Japan only accepts refugees who are being persecuted for political reasons; they do not accept economic refugees. Japan is closed to thousands of people seeking asylum including Syrians. Those who make it to Japan rarely have their refugee status recognized.
  8. Japan attempts to compensate for its decision not to take refugees by donating money to the UNHCR. In 2016, Japan was the fourth-largest donor, giving more than $164 million. In September 2016 Japan said it would provide $1.6 billion in assistance for Syrians and Iraqis engulfed in conflict.
  9. Japan plans to grant refugee status to 300 Syrians over the next five years. This number includes study abroad students and their families. Between 2017 and 2021, Japan plans to work with the Japan International Cooperation Agency to accept 20 Syrian students and their spouses and children each year if taking refuge in Lebanon and Jordan.
  10. In a move designed to show that Japan is willing to help with the Syrian refugee crisis, the government announced plans to accept 150 Syrian refugees over a period of five years as a part of the JICA program and the Japanese Government Scholarship program.

These 10 facts about Japan refugees make it clear that instead of accommodating refugees, Japan prefers to place a financial band-aid on the refugee crisis.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr


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