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close this bookThe Courier N 150 - March - April 1995 - Dossier: Refugees - Country Reports: The Bahamas, Guyana (EC Courier, 1995, 104 p.)
close this folderDossier
View the documentRefugees and displaced people
View the documentRefugee women
View the documentDevelopment-induced displacement
View the documentFleeing environmental devastation in the Sahel
View the documentIs there a refugee-specific education?
View the documentRefugee participation
View the documentRefugee assistance: a common approach
View the documentDefending humanitarianism at the end of the 20th century
View the documentMozambican refugees and their brothers' keepers
View the documentThe European Union's asylum policy: control, prevention, integration
View the documentAsylum procedures in the KU: towards a lowest common denominator
View the documentA European response to the global refugee crisis
View the documentRefugees from the former Yugoslavia - The view from Germany
View the documentDeveloping early warning systems
View the documentChallenging the assumptions of repatriation
View the documentAfrican hospitality takes the strain
View the documentInternational instruments concerning refugees.

Refugees and displaced people

The number of refugees in the world today is the largest it has ever been: 19 million people in all the continents have been forced out of their countries by persecution and violence, and the figures are still rising. At the same time, upwards of 24 million men, women and children have been displaced by man-made and natural disasters within their own countries.

The host countries to which refugees flee for safety and shelter are coming under more and more strain in trying to provide help. The difficulties are particularly severe in Africa, where the influx from civil wars in several regions has put intolerable pressure on neighbouring countries which are themselves suffering from poverty, over crowding or underdevelopment. But in Europe, too, since the citizens of the formerly communist states won the freedom to travel, countries which were once safe havens for refugees from the eastern bloc-and other parts of the world-and used to welcome migrants from elsewhere as cheap labour. have been making it increasingly difficult for aliens to gain admission or, once they are in, to settle and find a home, education and work.

What is a refugee? The internationally agreed definition, on which all policies for dealing with the influx have to hinge, has been refined through a series of conventions and other accords (see the extracts from various international instruments which are reproduced at the end of this Dossier).

For some time it has been clear that policies towards refugees will have to change. Instcad of merely coping with an influx when it arrives, the international community, especially the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, now argues that positive action must be taken to prevent the situations which provoke refugee flows developing in the first place As a sign of the changing attitudes, in 1992 the High Commissioner herself, Sadako Ogata, was invited to address the UN Security Council for the first time in her organisation's 42-year history, and pointed out that refugee issues had now become part of the global agenda for peace and security In the Meeting Point at the beginning of this issue, Mrs Ogata discusses the role of prevention and peace settlements in stopping or reversing displacement and refugee movements.

Different categories of people experience displacement in different ways, and Patricia Smyke, an academic specialising in NGO work. Iooks at the effects on women of being uprooted from their familiar surroundings. The Director of CARE-Ethiopia, Robin Needham, explains how creating mechanisms through which refugees can participate in taking decisions which affect them helps to prevent feelings of frustration and apathy. Reasons for becoming a refugee vary too, as an account of environmental displacement by advancing desert in Africa shows. An article on a recent conference by Dr Chris McDowell of Oxford University argues that development itself can be a contributing factor.

When it comes to practical help. assistance for people in distress in Africa, Asia and Europe is a major activity of the European Community Humanitarian Office, which describes its emergency work with refugees and displaced people in recent years The International Committee of the Red Cross gives an account of its work in Africa, and we provide a round-up of the response which refugees encounter in host countries throughout the world.

From the Secretariat-General of the European Commission comes a discussion of new proposals for a three-pronged policy towards refugee movements and displacement, involving control, prevention and integration. From different viewpoints, the European Council for Refugees and Exiles and Johannes van der Klaauw of Amnesty International take a critical look at aspects of the asylum policies of the European Union and its Member States. Judith Kumin supplies a case study of UNHCR's work with refugees from the former Yugoslavia now sheltering in Germany Looking towards policies for the future, Sharon Rusu of the UNHCR discusses the creation of an early warning system, and, Danielle Sepulveda of the Refugee Studies Programme in Britain considers whether, for refugees themselves, repatriation is the best solution

The world’s refugees - Populations by region on 1 January 1995