Life as a refugee

According to figures released by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, by the middle of 2015 there were about 60 million displaced people worldwide.

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons

Of these approximately 60 million displaced people, 34 million were internally displaced persons. Internally displaced persons do not fall under the legal protection afforded by the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Often, their home countries are unable, or unwilling, to provide for them. As a result, the suffering endured by internally displaced persons is frequently just as great as the suffering experienced by people officially recognised as refugees under the Geneva Convention.

There are 22.5 million people who have sought refuge outside their countries of origin, and therefore count as refugees under the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR. And, at the end of 2014, more than five million people were registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA.

Challenges for host countries

Many of the countries which take in large numbers of refugees are themselves very poor. The economic and social consequences of the refugee crisis overtax the capacity of their infrastructure – their hospitals and schools, in particular, are not able to cope with the increased demand, and their water supply systems also become strained. Both the refugees and the local communities have to suffer the consequences.

Take the Syrian crisis, for example. The strain on resources is particularly high for Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which are the main host countries. In Lebanon, for example, there are now more than one million Syrian refugees. This is an enormous challenge for a small country with a population of just 4.5 million inhabitants.

It takes seventeen years on average before refugees return to their countries of origin. That is why we need far-sighted solutions – solutions which protect the human rights of refugees and facilitate their long-term integration in their host countries.

Makeshift primary school

Refugee children are being taught in a tent camp for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Development cooperation creates new opportunities

In emergency and crisis situations, the humanitarian assistance provided by the international community is a measure that ensures the survival of the refugees. However, such assistance is only intended to be a short-term, immediate response.

It involves, for example, the distribution of food rations and clothes, or the provision of tents. Development cooperation following on from and complementing the emergency relief is designed to be implemented over a longer period of time.

These kinds of activities help stabilise affected regions, they support the reconstruction of areas that have been left devastated and improve living conditions in the countries concerned. Development cooperation activities contribute to the development of better prospects, thereby helping to prevent new crises.

Germany wants to use its development cooperation programmes to support refugees and internally displaced people as well as the communities that offer them refuge. To achieve this, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) provides assistance for infrastructure development activities, such as measures to improve water supply. Solar energy units can be used to secure long-term power supplies. Projects to provide additional schools and health facilities, or to create jobs, also help the host communities cope with the influx of refugees, and prevent refugees from being marginalised in their new surroundings.