Victims of forced migration or displacement (often known as refugees) are placed in a position where living in the place of their birth becomes impossible. This may be due to direct threats to their personal safety, through civil unrest or a military influenced by a corrupt government. Equally, even if a person’s personal safety may not be compromised, their civil liberties may be affected to such an extent that in order to live freely they must move. Further, climatic changes can affect agriculture and natural disasters and often lead to regions becoming unlivable. Failed harvests, or high unemployment can lead to families relocating to escape poverty and pursue a better future.
Ironically the countries on this list harbour some of one another’s refugees, highlighting perhaps that a country unlivable for one group may be a safe haven for another. Equally, the size of these countries means that, whilst some areas may be dangerous, other regions offer the ideal sanctuary from conflict.
Relocating to another country is not the only way in which refugees may be displaced; internal displacement is equally common and can lead to its own list of problems and solutions for individuals. Overall there are almost 36 million refugees worldwide, posing real challenges for aid workers. For those workers the nationality of the people within refugee camps is of minimal importance when ensuring that appropriate levels of sanitation and security are maintained. Refugee camps are far from cheap to run, with some requiring half a million dollars a day to function, so large organisations such as the UN and Amnesty International are constantly working to raise money and awareness to ensure that those who have been forced from their homes have somewhere to go.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 nations with the highest number of displaced citizens.
10. Kenya, 1.04 million
Despite having lived in Kenya for over a century, the country’s Nubian minority is not one of Kenya’s officially recognised ethnic groups (leading to many refugee Nubians who lack legitimacy within the country, as non-citizenship is assumed until proven otherwise). Not only does Kenya provide the world with over a million refugees, it also owns the world’s largest refugee camp (Dadaab, in eastern Kenya). Alongside housing many of its own internally displaced refugees, Dadaab also offers sanctuary for Somali refugees.
9. Somalia, 1.15 million
Although UNHRC has reported massive improvements in the safety of Somalia, there is still a long way to go; the African Union Mission in Somalia and the Somali National Armed Forces have succeeded in pushing opposition forces out of major cities, but small towns remain centres of conflict. In addition to the troubles which caused them to flee their own country, Somali refugees have faced alienation and poor treatment by the countries in which they sought sanctuary. In the past few days, Kenya has come under fire for the mass deportation of Somali refugees; they were transported from Nairobi back to Mogadishu (a city which has yet to be proven sufficiently safe for the return of refugees).
8. Myanmar (Burma), 1.24 million
Burma has a huge problem with internal displacement: Of the 800 000 people without citizenship in the country’s north the majority are believed to be internally displaced. Large numbers of Myanmar’s refugees can be found in neighbouring Thailand, where tens of thousands have been resettled with the support of Thai and US governments. Educational opportunities abroad can be a key motivator for resettlement, in addition to inter-communal tensions (predominantly in the Rakhine state).This year the country’s first national census in 31 years has been planned and it is hoped that the information gathered will help the nation develop a better understanding of its refugee crisis.
7. Afghanistan, 1.5 million
This year will mark a transitional year for Afghanistan as international security forces withdraw but only time will tell if this will have an impact upon the vast number of Afghans who seek refuge abroad each month. Unfortunately conflict in Afghanistan still features in the news almost weekly, as political unrest leads to bombings and shootings in major cities and towns. Currently ballots are being counted after a recent election to determine Afghanistan’s new president. Many hope that a newly elected leader may offer hope for citizens and help to end the violence which pervades the countries major cities (although there are already over 900 fraud complaints concerning the election).
6. Iraq, 1.66 million
Since the recent war, thousands of Iraqis have fled their country to find new (safer) homes abroad. A history of unrelenting violence within the country over the past 30 years has led to dangerous conditions for many of its citizens. Many originally fled to neighbouring Syria, only to leave a few years later to escape rising violence. Within Jordan Iraqi refugees often face racism, as many Jordanians blame them for the rise in house prices and claim that harbouring such a vast number of refugees places an unreasonable strain on the economy. Although UNICEF has pledged to give Jordan $80 million to absorb Iraqi children into the Jordanian education system, many claim that this is not enough.
5. Sudan, 2.15 million
Sudan’s citizens have been fleeing its borders to neighbouring countries for a number of reasons over the past few decades. There have been two major civil wars, the most recent ending in 2005, and political unrest remains a pressing issue for the nation. In addition, desertification (a type of land degradation) has made farming more and more difficult as the land becomes increasingly arid. There are now huge numbers of Sudanese refugees in Egypt, overwhelming aid workers who attempt to process their applications for refugee status. Unfortunately between 60% and 70% of Sudanese asylum seekers have their application rejected, with single men often losing out as women, children and families are prioritized.
4. Pakistan, 2.46 million
Pakistan may offer refuge for over a million Afghans but huge numbers of its own citizens are enduring similar hardships both abroad and as a result of internal displacement. UNHRC supports three camps within the country for the internally displaced, as instability forces tens of thousands of families to flee their homes. Military operations in FATA (federally administered tribal areas) cause many Pakistani families to seek refuge elsewhere and families may often move multiple times as unrest spreads throughout the country.
3. Syria, 2.78 million
Ever since the media branded ‘Arab Spring’ Syria has made headlines as thousands attempt to escape recent violent escalations. In addition to those who have fled the country, the United Nations have estimated that around 4 million Syrians have been ‘internally displaced’ by the civil war. The rate of migration from Syria has been startling, in some months an average of 10,000 people have been recorded crossing each day. By the end of last year the UN made an aid appeal of $6.5 billion to assist the Syrian population, revealing the financial as well as humanitarian implications of civil war and population displacement.
2. Dem. Rep. of Congo, 3.18 million
Although there has been huge political and military progress in DR Congo in the past few years, as the country moves towards increased regional cooperation, there is still a long way to go for this unstable nation. According to Oxfam ‘Communities in North and South Kivu still face killings, rape, abductions, torture, and economic exploitation, at the hands of many different armed groups’ and it is due to these dangers that thousands still flee their homeland each year. Violence and political unrest has also led to the basic needs of DR Congo’s citizens not being met. Inadequate healthcare, water and sanitation facilities are daily concerns for those who remain in the country, so it is unsurprising that vast numbers look abroad for a better life.
1. Colombia, 3.94 million
A history of armed conflict between guerrillas, paramilitaries and the Colombian army has led to the movement of millions of its citizens within and beyond the region. Problems with local integration are pressing for Colombian refugees who have fled to neighbouring Ecuador, as they lack access to basic services due to their lack of legal status. Discrimination and female-targeted violence within Ecuador also occur, meaning Colombians often face almost as much danger and persecution as they did back home. However, in spite of these dangers abroad, the UNHRC still considers internally displaced Colombians to be at the highest risk (affecting 3685 families between January and June last year).