Forced displacement: refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people (IDPs)

© European Union/ECHO/Peter Biro
Number of refugees and internally displaced end 2015Each year millions of people are forced to leave their homes and seek refuge from conflicts, violence, human rights violations, persecution, and natural disasters. The number of forcibly displaced people continued to rise throughout 2017, calling for increased humanitarian assistance worldwide. Up to 85% of the forcibly displaced find refuge in low- and middle-income countries. At the end of 2017, 68.5 million people were in need of protection and assistance as a consequence of forced displacement, according to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. This is the equivalent of a person becoming displaced every two seconds. Forcibly displaced populations include refugeesinternally displaced people (IDPs) and asylum-seekers. Globally in 2017, 40 million people were internally displaced as a result of conflict and persecution, while 25.4 million were refugees and 3.1 million were asylum-seekers. Most refugees nowadays live in urban areas (58%), not in camps or rural areas. Of the global refugee population, 52% are children under 18 - the highest proportion in a decade – including many who are unaccompanied or separated from their families (source: UNHCR Global Trends Report 2017). Turkey remains the world’s leading refugee hosting country with a population of 3.5 million refugees, mainly Syrians. Lebanon meanwhile hosts the largest number of refugees relative to its national population. Every year on 20 June, World Refugee Day is an opportunity to bring renewed focus to the plight of all people who are forced to flee their homes. The UN General Assembly established the World Refugee Day in 2001, on the 50th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement – a set of standards that outline the rights and guarantees relevant to the protection of IDPs from forced displacement to their protection and assistance during displacement up to the achievement of durable solutions. Although not a legally binding instrument, the principles have gained considerable authority since their adoption by the UN in 1998. The EU strongly supports the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, and systematically promotes their inclusion into international and national law. Finding durable solutions for the forcibly displaced is a challenge. Voluntary repatriation to their home countries is the preferred long-term outcome for refugees; but the lack of political solutions to conflicts prevents many from doing so. Forced displacement is no longer a temporary phenomenon; it lasts on average 20 years for refugees and more than 10 years for 90% of IDPs. Those who are internally displaced also face challenges in terms of protection, access to shelter, food and other basic services. Both refugees and IDPs in urban areas struggle with poverty, lack of psycho-social support, and difficulties in normalising their status.

A development-led approach to forced displacement

In April 2016, the European Commission adopted the Communication 'Lives in Dignity: from Aid-dependence to Self-reliance. Forced Displacement and Development', outlining a new development-led approach to forced displacement. The EU's objective is to strengthen the resilience and self-reliance of both the displaced and their host communities. Its focus is on working with host governments, at the national and local level, towards the gradual socio-economic inclusion of refugees and IDPs. The new approach aims to harness the productive capacities of refugees and IDPs by helping them to access education, housing, land, livelihoods and services.

The European Union's Humanitarian Response

Emergency REsponse Coordination Centre - ECHO Daily Map - Number of refugees or people in refugee like situation by host country In 2017, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid gave more than €2 billion, or 90% of its annual budget, to projects helping the forcibly displaced and their host communities in 49 countries (Turkey, Greece, Syria, Somalia and Lebanon being the top 5). This helps to:
  • meet the most pressing needs of these extremely vulnerable populations
  • protect and support displaced people during their displacement and when returning to their homes
  • increase the self-reliance of displaced people and reduce their dependency on aid
The Commission's assistance to the forcibly displaced is making a difference in the lives of many: Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Greece; Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan; Somali refugees in Kenya; Congolese refugees in the Great Lakes region; Palestinian refugees; Myanmar refugees in Thailand; Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh; and Sahrawi refugees in Algeria. Vulnerable IDPs are equally targeted by Commission assistance, particularly in Syria, Colombia, South Sudan, Iraq and Yemen.  
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