20 June is World Refugee Day


Every minute, 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror – United Nations

(Source: UNHCR)

Constant terror and war has caused mass exodus of people from certain regions. With no choice but to leave their homes, millions make the arduous journey to a safer environment.


Migrant or asylum seeker or refugee? The distinction matters.

Migrants choose to move not because of a direct threat or persecution but mainly to improve their lives:

  • Finding work
  • Seeking better education
  • Reuniting with family

Migrants are not asylum seekers or refugees. They can return home if they wish.

An asylum seeker is someone who claims to be a refugee but whose claim hasn’t been evaluated. This person would have applied for asylum on the grounds that returning to his or her country would lead to persecution on account of race, religion, nationality or political beliefs.

Someone is an asylum seeker for so long as his or her application is pending. So not every asylum seeker will be recognised as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.

Refugees are people fleeing conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected in international law, and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk.

Source countries of refugees

The plight facing the Rohingya people has added to the global refugee crisis.  Nearly 700,000 have fled the destruction of their homes and persecution in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar (Burma) for neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017.

Refugees in Africa

Sub Sahara hosts approximately 26 % of the world’s refugee population.  Uganda is home to the highest number of refugees in Africa. The number of displaced South Sudanese people rose from 115,000 in 2013 to 1.28 million in October of 2016.

The 10 African countries which hosted the most number of refugees and people in refugee-like situations

Country of asylum Total refugees
Uganda 940,835
Ethiopia 791,631
DRC 451,956
Kenya 451,099
Sudan 421,466
Chad 391,251
Cameroon 375,415
Tanzania 281,498
South Sudan 262,560
Egypt 213,530

Source: Global Trends 2016


Per capita rate of refugees in African countries

Country of asylum Refugees per 1,000 inhabitants
Chad 26.99
Uganda 23.33
South Sudan 20.62
Djibouti 19.66
Mauritania 17.80
Cameroon 15.69
Rwanda 13.13
Sudan 10.24
Congo, Republic of 9.80
Kenya 9.55

Source: UNHCR Global Trends 2016

Dangers facing refugees in host countries

Refugees flee from peril and cross national borders to safer regions. However they are not out of danger. Many asylum seekers and refugees face threats in transit or in their host countries.

Between 2000 – 2017, at least 33,761 reported to have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean. 2016 was the deadliest years for asylum seekers crossing the perilous sea where 5,096 asylum seekers lost their lives.

Refugee Deaths in the Mediterranean

2013 700
2014 3 279
2015 3 784
2016 5 143
January- September 3 262

(Source: IOM)

Asylum seekers also face danger in their host country. Persistent xenophobic attacks in South Africa pose a fresh threat to those seeking refuge. In the past 24 years, at least 200 people were killed or injured in xenophobic attacks in the ‘Rainbow nation’ – South Africa.

Refugee women and children face additional challenges and danger.   There are been worrying reports of gender based violence and sexual abuse in refugee reception bases.   In 2017, UNHCR received reports from 622 survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) on the Greek Aegean islands, out of which at least 28 per cent experienced SGBV after arriving in Greece. Women reported inappropriate behaviour, sexual harassment and attempted sexual attacks as the most common forms of SGBV.

(Source: UNHCR)






Refugees experience immense trauma in their home countries compounded by poverty. This trauma is increased during their journey to safety. Everyone deserves a life free of violence. Everyone deserves a chance to rebuild. . Every life is important.

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