Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Dependence on refugees
Uprooted people

The natural environment, human communities and traditional cultures are collapsing. Extremist leaders, politicians and media are pitting people against one another along cultural identities. Displaced from their homes by the combined effects of climate change, poverty and political violence, caravans and boatloads of desperate people are seeking refuge across state borders. Climate-change induced hurricanes, floods, droughts and biodiversity loss are realities.

In addition to the problems encountered of settling in a host country and attempting to find acceptance by the community of that country, refugees encounter difficulties in finding employment and housing. They have to adapt themselves to new environments, lifestyles, ideas about values and customs, and often to a foreign language. They run the risk of losing their native identity, especially when the culture is oral, and are constantly confronted with a feeling of the inability to participate and belong, a feeling which often leads to cultural rootlessness. Their children often have difficulty accessing schooling and, once admitted, experience problems in adjusting to new languages, teaching styles and standards. These people may also have a higher incidence of nightmares, inability to concentrate in school, and of the various kinds of aggression, withdrawal, and mental breakdown observed in people who have seen horrors which cannot be eradicated from their minds.

For the receiving countries, waves of refugees may cause severe and abrupt changes in the environment. Population densities multiply overnight, traditional land systems are disrupted and markets are disorganized. The presence of refugees may create xenophobia among the permanent residents, stir up prejudice and lead to factions which disagree ideologically with one another.


It has been estimated that between 1900 and 1980, some 250 million people had fled their countries. However, it has been in the past two decades that the number of refugees has been rising out of all proportion. In the early 1970s there were 2.5 million; ten years later this had risen to 10 million; at the start of 1992 there were 17 million, and at the end 18.9 million. These are official figures of the UN Commission for Refugees, which acknowledges that by looser definitions of "refugee" the world total is more like 250 million. And such absolute figures disguise the turnover in refugees. Some resettle quickly, others may resettle but become refugees yet again.

The 1984 figures for unsettled refugees indicate that 10 million people per year are added to the list of refugees. At the present time, it is estimated that one in every 130 people in the world has been forced to flee his or her home, and has become a refugee or a displaced person. More than 19 million refugees living today have been forced abroad, and a further 24 million have been driven from their homes and are "internally displaced" refugees within their own borders, the victims of "ethnic cleansing" and other forms of persecution. Never before have so many been in search of protection and asylum. The main causes of displacement are violent conflict and the chaotic breakdown of civil order. Notable crises include the massive 10 million refugee flow from Bangladesh into India during the 1971 war with Pakistan, the mass flight of refugees from Rwanda (e.g. in 1961) and the 14 million displaced during the partition of India/Pakistan.

Notable new cases from the 1990s of the mass creation of refugees are Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Iraq, Rwanda and the 120,000 aid-dependent Sahrawi refugees who still seek return to Western Saharan territory occupied by Morocco.

By comparison with Asia and Africa, the European refugee problems remains small, yet most European states have registered a 10-fold increase in asylum applications since the fall of communism. The most generous host countries to refugees (ranked according to ratio of refugee population to GNP per capita) in 1992 were: Malawi, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Kenya, Algeria, Croatia, Germany and Canada. In 1991, Germany accepted a record number of refugees - more than 200,000, comprising two-thirds of refugees entering the EEC/EU. Many came as aspiring immigrants from situations of poverty in Eastern Europe, but since Germany has no provision for legal immigration, they enter under the country's liberal asylum law. However, unable to tolerate indefinitely the average 500,000 refugees which annually arrive, in 1992 Germany offered money to Poland and the Czech Republic to take some of the excess. One of the more recent cases was the million refugees who fled from ethnic killings in Burundi in 1993. Many were being cared for by Tanzanians at the border region, whom they outnumbered 10 to 1. Several thousands had already been killed. Despite being one of the poorest nations in the world and with a recent poor civil-rights record towards its own people, Malawi, its own population a mere 8.5 million, has cared for more than a million refugees from Mozambique since 1986, at an estimated cost of about $25 million from its state budget.

Countries hosting substantial refugee populations in 1992 were Guatemala 222,200; Mexico 361,000; Malawi 1,058,000 (virtually all from Mozambique); Tanzania 292,100 (149,500 from Burundi which have been substantially increased since latest coup); Zaire 392,100 (includes 198,200 from Angola); Ethiopia 431,800 (406,000 from Somalia); Kenya 401,900 (285,000 from Somalia); Croatia 648,000 (all from former Yugoslavia); France 182,000 (46,500 from Turkey); Germany 827,300 (259,000 from former Yugoslavia); UK 100,000 (5,700 from former Yugoslavia); Hungary 112,000; China 288,400 (285,000 from Vietnam); Iran 4,150,700 (2.8 million from Afghanistan, 1.25 million from Iraq); Pakistan 1,629,200 (1,627,000 from Afghanistan); Azerbaijan 246,000 (195,000 from Armenia).

Association for the Study of the World Refugee Problem (AWR)
Federation of Balkan Turk Migrants and Refugee Associations (BTF)
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)
Jesuit Refugee Service Europe (JRS Europe)
Nordic Joint Advisory Group on Refugee Policy
Refugee Working Group (RWG)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
African Refugees Foundation (AREF)
Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)
European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)
International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
Migration, Asylum, Refugees Regional Initiative (MARRI)
Refugee Council
Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network (SRLAN)
The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration (THP Foundation)
UNITED for Intercultural Action - European Network Against Nationalism, Racism, Fascism and in Support of Migrants and Refugees (UNITED)
African Refugee Development Center (ARDC)
American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA)
American Refugee Committee (ARC)
Association of Latin American and Caribbean Refugees
Auckland Refugee Council
Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO)
Belgian Committee for Refugee Aid
Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR)
Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR)
Centre for Refugee Studies, York
Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
DIAKONIA - Protestant Refugee Service
Dutch Refugee Council
East African School on Refugee and Humanitarian Affairs (EASRHA)
Finnish Refugee Council (FRC)
German Foundation for UN Refugee Aid
Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR)
International Platform for Black, Migrant and Refugee Women's Organizations (TIYE International)
International Refugee Trust (IRT)
Irish Refugee Council
Italian Council for Refugees
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)
Nansen Refugee Award Committee
Netherlands Refugee Foundation
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
Portuguese Refugee Council
Refugee Children of the World
Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA)
Refugee Education Sponsorship Program International (RESPECT International)
Refugee Relief International (RRII)
Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford (RSC)
Refugees Aid for West Africa (RAFWA)
Refugees International (RI)
Refugees International Japan (RIJ)
Scottish Refugee Council (SRC)
Spanish Commission for Refugee Assistance
Swiss Refugee Council
US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
Women's Refugee Commission (WRC)
World Relief Refugee Services (WRRS)
Mercy Corps International (MCI)
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Oxfam International
World Economic Forum (WEF)
Center for Preventive Action (CPA)
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
B: Basic universal problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST