The current situation of refugees worldwide

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2018

78 Pages, Grade: B



Conflicts that have created refugees

Researches conducted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Life in refugee camps

Life as urban refugees

Three durable solutions for refugees offered by UNHCR
Voluntary repatriation:
Local integration:

Life in resettlement countries (the third country)


PART TWO: The current situation of refugees in New Zealand

How refugees are prepared for resettlement in New Zealand

What are the challenges faced by refugees when resettling in New Zealand?

What role does reconciliation play in the process of

integration into New Zealand?

How Do refugees resign themselves to integrate in New Zealand in order to rebuild their lives and survive?



The current situation of refugees worldwide


This research is divided into two main parts. Part one aims to describe what research has been conducted about the current situation of refugees in the world. To achieve this aims the review explains why there are refugees in the world and where refugees came from. Moreover, address the following questions: What is the situation in refugee camps? What is the situation of refugees living in urban areas? What are the durable solutions offered to refugees by the United Nations High commissioner for Refugee? (UNHCR) Finally, part one concludes with a description of the situation of refugees in resettlement countries and a summary.

Part two aims to explore the current situation of refugees in New Zealand. To accomplish this second objective, the review aims to address the next four questions: How refugees are prepared for resettlement in New Zealand? What are the challenges faced by refugees when resettling in New Zealand? What role does reconciliation play in the process of integration in New Zealand? And how do refugees resign themselves to integrate in New Zealand in order to rebuild their lives and survive? Finally, this research concludes with related findings and a summary.

Conflicts that have created refugees

After World War I in 1914, the issue of refugees in Europe gets worse and took a new course. Some of the consequences that brought World War I was that some empires collapsed (Tumanova, 2012). Millions of people in Europe after World War I were forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries (Okkenhaug, 2010). After that, came World War II in 1939, and this was much worse and more destructive than the previous war and resulted in the deaths of about 60 million people and millions more escaped from their countries to seek asylum (Nasaw, 2015; Bystrom, 2014; Connor, 2006; Frank & Reinisch, 2014; Frankl, 2014; Joskowicz, 2016). Although there have been no more world wars since 1945, local wars have left millions of people dead and a large number of displaced (Spiegel & Ginger, 2014). Currently, there are civil wars in several parts of the globe which are creating an increasing number of refugees (Zhang & Hellmueller, 2017; Fisher, Struve, & Lemke 2002). Some of these conflicts are provoked by deep-rooted ethnic, religious and political divisions. For example, such disputes in a number of African countries have created more than 3.4 million refugees and asylum seekers in 2014 (UNHCR, Perfil de las operaciones regionales 2014 - África, 2016).

There is no doubt that these internal conflicts have created a large number of refugees. As a result, today we have a global refugee crisis (Khiabany, 2016; Kaasch, 2016). Concerning to this, Amnesty International (2015) states that the top 10 source countries of refugees are Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Central African Republic, Iraq, and Eritrea. Therefore, let briefly analyze how these internal conflicts have created an enormous number of refugees in three of the countries already described.

By the end of June 2016, the conflict in Syria had caused the displacement of 6.6 million people in Syria (ACNUR, 2016b; Amnistía Internacional, 2016). In addition, it created more than 4.8 million Syrian refugees living in neighbouring countries (ACNUR, 2016b; Amnistía Internacional, 2016; Rygiel, Baban, & Ilcan, 2016; Wall, Campbell, & Janbek, 2017). The number of these Syrian refugees in the neighboring countries is the following: Turkey 2,724,937; Lebanon 1,033,513; Jordan 656,198; Iraq 249,395 and Egypt 114,911 (ACNUR, 2016b; Amnistía Internacional, 2016). By June 2016 there had been more than 223,000 arrivals of Syrian refugees by sea to Europe, of which more than 158,000 arrived in Greece, and more than 64,000 in Italy (ACNUR, 2016b). Unfortunately, not all Syrian refugees were able to escape safely, is reported the escape of Syrian refugees have left 2,800 dead and missing at sea (ACNUR, 2016b). A very remarkable example of this was the tragedy occurred to a three-year-old Syrian boy named Aylan Kurdi, who was found dead on a beach in Turkey. After his boat was shipwrecked in the Mediterranean Sea where his mother and brother lost their lives as well (Gunter, 2015). Regarding this tragedy Gunter (2015) affirms:

Alan set out before dawn that morning from his home in Turkey with his father Abdullah, mother Rehanna, and five-year-old brother Ghalib. The Kurdis were trying to reach Canada to reunite with Abdullah's sister Tima, a hairdresser in Vancouver. The family joined with a small group of refugees at the coast to attempt the 4km (2.5 mile) crossing to the Greek island of Kos. Abdullah texted Tima from the beach to say they were leaving. "I passed the message to my dad in Syria," she said, "Abdullah is leaving now, pray for his safety." But her prayers went unanswered. Minutes after they set off, the small boat carrying the family was hit by high waves and the captain fled. Abdullah Kurdi found himself fighting to save his two young boys. Of the 23 people in the group, 14 are believed to have died, including Abdullah's wife and sons. It was, tragically, not a high number in a summer scarred by mass deaths in the Mediterranean, but the images that emerged set the incident apart. Having floated back to Turkish shores, Alan was pictured lying face down in the sand, his body terribly small, dressed in a red shirt, blue shorts, and Velcro shoes. In another picture, he is seen cradled in the arms of the guard who carried him away. (para. 2-5)

Similar to Syria, by 2015 the conflict inAfghanistan has left 2,7 million refugees worldwide (ACNUR, 2016). Of this population, 951,142 Afghan refugees live in the Islamic Republic of Iran (UNHCR, 2015). This means that “the Islamic Republic of Iran hosts one of the largest urban refugee populations worldwide, primarily Afghans” (UNHCR, 2015, p. 4). We may conclude then, that Research studies conducted by the UNHCR allow us to see that Afghanistan is the second country in the world with the largest number of refugees (UNHCR, 2015). These 2,7 million Afghan refugees have been the product of the violent conflicts that Afghanistan has faced since 1979 (Collins, 2011; Azadany, 2016; ACNUR, 2000).

Likewise, the civil war that has faced Somalia has created the third largest population of refugees in the world with 1,1 million refugees by the end of 2015 (ACNUR, 2016). According to Colletta and Cullen (2000), the conflict in Somalia has created an unprecedented economic crisis in the country. This economic crisis combined with the civil war and droughts has caused the death of thousands of people (CNN, 2013; Público, 2013). For instance, between October 2010 and April 2012 around 258,000 people died of hunger in Somalia (CNN, 2013; Público, 2013). Another 300,000 people have been killed in the Somali conflict (Calatayud, 2011). All these troubles have caused the internal displacement of thousands of Somalis, and more than 1.1 million have left the country to seek asylum in neighbour countries (ACNUR, 2016).

As is described above, other countries with a large number of refugees by the end of 2015 are South Sudan, 778,697 refugees. Sudan, 628,770. Democratic Republic of Congo, 541,499. The Central African Republic, 469,044. Myanmar, 451,807. Eritrea, 411,342. Colombia, 340,240 and Iraq with a refugee population of 264,107 (ACNUR, 2016).

These Millions of displaced people driven by fear have crossed the borders of neighbouring countries to find a safe shelter to live and become refugees (ACNUR, 2016). However, it is becoming more difficult to obtain the refugee status in any country, especially in the United States of America after September 11, 2001 (Piwowarczyk & Keane, 2007; Kaiser, 2006). Likewise, it is no easy to be recognized as a refugee in Japan. Thus, Wolman (2015) affirms:

If one combines the statistics from 2011 to 2014, Japan’s four-year recognition rate amounts to 0.4 per cent (Japan Ministry of Justice, 2015). This is far less than what is normal for other wealthy countries that are parties to the Refugee Convention. For example, from 2011 to 2013, the Australian refugee recognition rate was 48.9 percent (19,024 out of 38,939 applicants); the German refugee recognition rate was 25 percent (26,679 out of 106,733 applicants), and the Canadian refugee recognition rate was 24.8 percent (31,040 out of 125,413 applicants) (UNHCR, n.d.a). The average refugee recognition rate for all countries in the world and UNHCR in 2013 was 32 percent (UNHCR, 2014: 59). There has been a general assumption that Japan’s comparatively tiny refugee recognition rate reflects an overly stringent (or dysfunctional) refugee status determination system, as reflected by comments from scholars (Flowers, 2008: 339) and activists (Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, 2014; Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees, 2013). (p. 413)

According to Harper (2008), most countries are apathetic about receiving refugees because it is thought that refugees are an economic burden for a country. Further, it is believed that by accepting large numbers of refugees, countries could increase their socio-economic problems (Harpes, 2008; Watters, 2007; Bloch & Schuster, 2002). Furthermore, it is not easy for most displaced people to escape overseas. It requires money to get to another country and many displaced people cannot afford to make these journeys (Harper, 2008). But those who cross borders and become asylum seekers have to face socio-economic problems (Jacobsen, 2005). Globally refugees and asylum seekers have to face many issues that affect their situation during the process of obtaining a recognized refugee status and after their settlements in the new country of asylum (Al-Qdah & Lacroix, 2010; Liedtke, 2002; Weaver & Burns, 2001; Benček & Strasheim, 2016; Choi, Davis, Cummings, Regenmorter, & Barnett, 2015; Style, et al., 2013; Besteman, 2014; King, 2004; Khamaja, White, Schweit, & Greenslade, 2008; Oatley, 2000; Porter, 2007; Cliff, 2000). Therefore, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has conducted thousands of research on the issues faced by refugees worldwide.

Researches conducted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

In the world there are many experts on the subject of refugees who have conducted thousands of research on the issues faced by internal displaced persons and refugees worldwide (Ager, 1999; Ahearn, Loughry, & Ager, 1999; Bloch, 2000; Burnham, 1997; Duke, 1996; Gold 1992; Robinson, 1993; Nicholls, 1998; Richman, 1998; Canadian Council for Refugees, 2004; Cernea, 1995; Chan & Christie, 1995; Essed & Frerks, 2004; Greear, 1998; International Catholic Migration Commission, 2000; International Centre About Asylum and Refugees, 2006; Joly, 1996; Joly & Collinson, 1996; Manderson, Kelaher, Markovic, & McManu, 1998; Korac, 2003; Kunz, 1981; Lanphier, 1997; Wahlbeck, 1998; Wooden, 1991; Vedsted-Hansen, 1999; Montgomery, 1995; Robinson, 1999; Ruxton, 2000; Valtonen, 1999; Verkuyten & Masson, 1995; Singer & Wilson, 2006). Nevertheless, no one is more expert about refugees than UNHCR (UNHCR, 2001; ACNUR, 2001). The United Nations High commissioner for Refugees is the world's most experienced organization on refugee topics with more than 66 years of experience working with refugees worldwide (UNHCR, 2001; ACNUR, 2001).

This organization (UNHCR) was created by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 14 December 1950, with the mandate and objective to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes due to the World War II (UNHCR, 2001; ACNUR, 2001). UNHCR has a mandate to assist refugees worldwide in accordance with the Convention established on 28 July 1951, which defines the criteria for a person to be internationally recognized as a refugee (UNHCR, 2001; ACNUR, 2001). The work of UNHCR has been valued and appreciated by the international community. So, in 1954, UNHCR won the Nobel Peace Prize for its work in humanitarian assistance to refugees (UNHCR, 2001; ACNUR, 2001). Subsequently in 1981 UNHCR won again the Nobel Peace Prize (UNHCR, 2001; ACNUR, 2001).

As is described previously the UNHCR is the United Nations agency to protect refugees worldwide(UNHCR, Perfil de las operaciones regionales 2014 - África, 2016). Around 11,000 people are the staff members of the UNHCR, and these 11,000 people are working for protecting refugees in 128 countries (UNHCR, 2001; ACNUR, 2001). In 2016 the UNHCR’s operational budget was $6.54 billion (UNHCR, 2017; ACNUR, 2017). This organisation (UNHCR) has published thousands of research articles about refugees, some of which are described in this review (Sebastien, 2016; Mehan, 2016; Maple, 2016; Gottwald, 2016; Byrne, 2016; Shandy, 2016; Easton-Calabria, 2016; Treviranus, 2015; Goodall, 2015; South & Jolliffe, 2015; Barberić, 2015; Hart & Kvittingen, 2015; Jolliffe & South, 2014; Gojer & Ellis, 2014; Marks, 2014; Hammond, 2014). Data collection methods used by UNHCR to conduct their researches are: documents review, participation, fieldwork, interviews, experiments, surveys, censuses, case studies, participant observations, focus groups and other (Sebastien, 2016; Mehan, 2016; Maple, 2016; Gottwald, 2016; Byrne, 2016; Shandy, 2016; Easton-Calabria, 2016; Treviranus, 2015; Goodall, 2015; South & Jolliffe, 2015; Barberić, 2015; Hart & Kvittingen, 2015; Jolliffe & South, 2014; Gojer & Ellis, 2014; Marks, 2014; Hammond, 2014; Adams, Khan, & Reaside, 2014). Thus, this organisation implements qualitative and quantitative research methodologies and methods to carry out these projects. Christensen, Johnson, and Turner (2015) explain “a quantitative research study is one that collects some type of numerical data to answer a given research question; a qualitative research study is a study that collects some type of no numerical data to answer a research question” (p. 46).

According to Adams, Khan, and Reaside (2014) “a research method is a way of conducting and implementing research. Research methodology is the science and philosophy behind all research” (p. 5). Thus, quantitative research conducted by the ACNUR (2016) through surveys, censuses, and documents review methods shows that the number of refugees in the world for 2015 totalled 65.3 million. Of these, 21.3 million people (16.1 million protected under UNHCR mandate and 5.2 million Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA1 ) were recognized as refugees by the 1951 Geneva Convention. Another 40.8 million are internally displaced people and 3.2 million are asylum seekers.

It can be seen that UNHCR has conducted thousands of research on the subject of refugees in more than 128 countries worldwide (Sebastien, 2016; Mehan, 2016; Maple, 2016; Gottwald, 2016; Byrne, 2016; Shandy, 2016; Easton-Calabria, 2016; Treviranus, 2015; Goodall, 2015; South & Jolliffe, 2015; Barberić, 2015; Hart & Kvittingen, 2015; Jolliffe & South, 2014; Gojer & Ellis, 2014; Marks, 2014; Hammond, 2014). In fact, in the UNHCR databases, there are thousands of investigations on the refugees’ subject, and the majority of academic publications make direct or indirect quotations from UNHCR’s publications in their articles (Schussler, 2009; Carreño, 2012; Kaiser, 2006; Bermudez, 2013; Shedlin, et al., 2016; Gárate, 2014; Dryden-Peterson, 2015; International Catholic Migration Commission, 2001). In other words, thousands of research about refugee cite from UNHCR’s publications as the most reliable source, or at least make mention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in their academic research (Gerver, 2017; Benson, Sun, Hodge, & Androff, 2011; Haffejee & East, 2016; Bal & Arzubiaga, 2014; Kelly, 2003; Lawrence & Hardy, 1999; Yakushko, Backhaus, Watson, Ngaruiya, & Gonzalez, 2008; Bonnycastle, 2016; Das, Dubus, & Silka, 2013; McBrien, 2005; Bulley, 2014; Hermansson & Timpka, 1999; Harvey, 2000; Nikunen, 2016; Cheung & Phillimore, 2014; Morrice, 2012; Dako-Gyeke & Adu, 2017; Mitschke, Praetorius, Kelly, Small, & Kim, 2016; Zihindula, Meyer-Weitz, & Akintola, 2015; Cooper, Olejniczak, Lenette, & Smedley, 2017; Slobodin & TVM de Jong, 2015; Fisk, 2016; Sidhu, Taylos, & Chrostie, 2011; Tappis, et al., 2012; Rolfe, 2008; Gibney, 2015; Mah & Rivers, 2016). That is why we could argue that UNHCR’s publications are the most accredited sources on the subject of refugees worldwide.

In a like manner, as far as refugee research is concerned, a large number of investigations implemented by individuals other than UNHCR base their research on the mental health issues experienced by refugees (Dow & MFT, 2011; Slobodin & T. V. M. de Jong, 2015; Newman, 2016; Al-Smadi, et al., 2017; Nelson-Peterman, Toof, Liang, & Grigg-Saito, 2015; Molsa, et al., 2014; Polcher & Calloway, 2016; Tempany, 2009; Hodes, 2002). For example, thousands of investigations have been conducted on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, trauma and resilience experienced by refugees (Schweitzer, Greenslade, & Kagee, 2007; Lenette, Brough, & Cox, 2012; Robertson, Savik, Mathiason-Moore, Mohamed, & Hoffman, 2016; Tobin, Napoli, & Beck, 2017; Corvo & Peterson, 2005; Sonne, Carlsson, Bech, & Mortensen, 2016; Sleijpen, Mooren, Kleber, & Boeije, 2017; Lusk & Terrazas, 2015; Rechtman, 2000; Lusting, Weine, Saxe, & Beardslee, 2004) Therefore, it is much easier to find more academic articles focuses on these mental health issues faced by refugees than in their stories of resettlement (Eiroa, Brune, Huter, Fischer-Ortman, & Haasen, 2011; Corvo & Peterson, 2005; Sonne, Carlsson, Bech, & Mortensen, 2016).

As previously described, there are less research about refugees’ stories in comparison with research focused on refugees’ mental health (Dow & MFT, 2011; Slobodin & T. V. M. de Jong, 2015; Newman, 2016; Al-Smadi, et al., 2017; Nelson-Peterman, Toof, Liang, & Grigg-Saito, 2015; Molsa, et al., 2014; Polcher & Calloway, 2016; Tempany, 2009; Hodes, 2002). It could be argued that many independent researchers are more interested in studying the mental health illness of refugees than their resettlement experiences.

On the other hand, the databases of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees include a large number of topics covering all refugee issues such as forced displacement, asylum seekers, refugee status, refugee camps, urban refugees, durable solutions for refugees, voluntary repatriation, local integration, resettlement to a third country, medical treatment for refugees, family reunification, refugee children, refugee women, refugee men, stateless persons and others refugees' topics (Muller, 2013; Obi, 2013; Piper, 2013; Skeels, 2012; McDonough & Tsourdi, 2012, ACNUR, 2016). Millions of refugees have faced all the issues described above and after crossing borders, a large number of them are forced to live in refugee camps where they continue to experience the same problems (Pulla & Dahal, 2016).

Life in refugee camps

A variety of studies has been conducted about refugee camps (Kohn, 2016; Agier, 2012; Banjong, et al., 2003; Berbic, 2016; Schechter, 2004; Darychuk & Jackson, 2015). A refugee camp is a human settlement in which people live for an indefinite period of time, a group of people forcibly displaced from their habitual residence(Janmyr, 2013). Refugee camps are located in more than 125 countries (Marina Koren, 2013). Below is the list of the 50 largest refugee camps in the world.

Table 1. The 50 Most Populous Refugee Camps in the world in 2013.

(Marina Koren, 2013)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

In the previous table, Marina Koren (2013) shows which were the 50 largest refugee camps in the world by the year 2013. However, by 2017 some of these data have changed, for instance, Marina Koren (2013) did not mention the Zaatari refugee camp which is located in Mafraq Governorate Northern Jordan (UNHCR, 2016). This Zaatari refugee camp was opened on 29 July 2012 and around 80,000 Syrian refugees are living there (UNHCR, 2016). We could guess that Marina Koren (2013) in the ranking 11 wants to describe the Zaatari refugee camp, but she wrote maybe by mistake Zaatri. In any case, the data provided by Marina Koren (2013) allows us to have an overview of the largest refugee camps in the world. But on the list, would have to include the Zaatari refugee camp as one of the five largest refugee camps in the world. Nevertheless, she included this refugee camp in the rank 11 (Marina Koren, 2013; UNHCR, 2016). On the contrary, Telesur (2016) affirms that currently, Zaatari refugee camp is the second largest refugee camp in the world.

According to Telesur (2016), refugee camps are like a prison, especially the Zaatari refugee camp. When new refugees arrive at Zaatari refugee camp they have to live in a closed space with metal fences that prevents them from ever leaving this place (Telesur, 2016). If any refugee wishes to leave the camp, he/she must request permission to leave it (Telesur, 2016). This place is completely monitored by armed police who control the daily activities of refugees (Telesur, 2016). Moreover, the refugee camp does not provide any employment opportunities for refugees. Consequently, many of them feel bored and desperate and want to leave the refugee camp (Telesur, 2016). But these refugees are advised to be patient and wait for an apparent solution that may take many years to arrive (Telesur, 2016). For all the aforementioned, many refugees within this camp feel like in prison and have preferred to return to Syria even though this country is still in war (Telesur, 2016). The living conditions experienced by refugees in the Zaatari camp are very similar to the living conditions in all refugee camps around the world.

In the refugee camps, refugees receive international humanitarian aid, primarily in the form of food, water, shelter and medical care(Janmyr, 2013). Qualitative and quantitative research performed by Janmyr (2013), Gebreiyosus (2014), Kumssa and Jones (2014) and Hammond (2014) have shown that millions of refugees and displaced people live in extreme poverty and an unsafe manner in this kind of human settlement. For instance, the research of Janmyr (2013) was conducted over four years on a case study in northern Uganda about the protection of civilians in refugee camps. “A case study is a method of studying elements of our social fabric through comprehensive description and analysis of single situation or case” (O’Leary, 2014, p. 194). The most important research question used by Janmyr (2013) is: How does UNHCR's international responsibility depend upon whether a host state is unwilling or unable to provide adequate protection? To respond to that question the researcher implements a quality research methodology(Janmyr, 2013). The study concludes by arguing that governments are primarily responsible for the safety of civilians in refugee camps (Janmyr, 2013). Nevertheless, this responsibility does not exclude UNHCR and its partner agencies. Thus, the governments, UNHCR, and their partner agencies have an equal responsibility to protect refugees in the camps where they live (Janmyr, 2013). Although governments and various organizations must protect the safety of refugees in the camps, thousands of them are not safe in the refugee camps.


1 United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees

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The current situation of refugees worldwide
Massey University, New Zealand
Master of International Development
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Alfredo Lopez (Author), 2018, The current situation of refugees worldwide, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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