Refugees - overview and trends

In recent years, many positive developments have been realized for populations displaced as a result of conflict. Large groups of refugees have found a durable solution in returning to their countries of origin and the global refugee population has thus declined from 18 million in 1992 to just over 9 million in 2004. These positive developments notwithstanding, entire populations are still caught up in situations of extreme poverty and violence wherein displacement and mobility are part of complex coping and survival mechanisms.

Video: The worlds largest refugee camp

The sustainability of the reintegration process is also questionable in many situations. People have sometimes gone back to where they sought refuge due to fresh outbreaks of conflicts in areas of return or they have been forced to move once again because of poor economic prospects in areas of return. New refugee movements continue to be generated from lower-profile conflicts in Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Myanmar, etc. Moreover, many refugees still live in protracted situations; in 2004 there were some 33 protracted refugee situations involving 5.7 million refugees.

In some instances, certain individuals and groups may continue to experience displacement and/or human rights violations well beyond the actual cessation of hostilities while others return to a normal life either through local integration or return/repatriation. The former continue to be displaced for extended periods most often because of lack of a political solution to the conflict (peace agreement), meaning that they are held in limbo with no immediate prospects for a durable solution.

Globally, asylum laws and institutions are becoming increasing restrictive, making it more and more difficult for refugees and asylum seekers to obtain the protection to which they are entitled. For example, a substantial decline in asylum claims has been noted in industrialized countries, with member states of the EU receiving nearly 20 per cent fewer claims in 2004 than in 2003 and 36 per cent fewer than in 2001. The pressure on asylum laws and institutions is closely linked to the marked increase in complex migratory flows around the Globe, referred to earlier; with both legal and illegal migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and others moving not only within their regions of origin but also across continents. However, the consequences of this are not always negative; many development and humanitarian actors see increasing remittances as a potential factor in support of reconstruction and development.