Information on Refugees

Who is a refugee?

Who is an Internally Displaced Person?

How many refugees and IDPs are there?

Why are refugees and IDPs displaced?

Are there solutions to displacement?

Are there any famous refugees?

Why does FORGE focus on refugees?


Who is a refugee? Top
A refugee is a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” This definition comes from the 1951 Refugee Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and those who fall under these conditions are entitled to international protection.

For more information about refugees from the UNHCR, click here.


Who is an Internally Displaced Person? Top

The most widely used definition of internally displaced persons (IDPs) comes from a 1992 report of the United Nations Secretary-General, which defines IDPs as “persons who have been forced to flee their homes suddenly or unexpectedly in large numbers, as a result of armed conflict, internal strife, systematic violations of human rights or natural or man-made disasters, and who are within the territory of their own country.” IDPs have similar needs for protection and assistance as refugees, but do not have the same legal status or receive the same aid services as those who fled their country. When FORGE expands to the Democratic Republic of Congo, FORGE programs will serve IDPs as well as repatriated refugees.


How many refugees and IDPs are there? Top

At the end of 2006, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported approximately 9.9 million refugees worldwide. The year 2006 was the first time since 2002 that the number of global refugees increased, rather than declined. The increase came from the flow of Iraqi refugees and changes in counting methodology. Sub-Saharan Africa hosted 2.42 million of the total refugees at the end of 2006.

Presenting an accurate number of IDPs is challenging given limited data collection tools, lack of physical access to IDPs because of insecurity, IDP reluctance to officially register, and other factors. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimated that there were 25.3 million IDPs at the end of 2005, and 12.8 million were receiving protection and assistance from UNHCR at the end of 2006.


Why are refugees and IDPs displaced? Top

The three most common causes of forced migration are conflict, development policies and projects, and disasters. FORGE focuses on populations displaced by conflict.


Are there solutions to displacement? Top

There are three recognized durable solutions for refugee crises:

Repatriation: The return of refugees to their country of origin. Repatriation must be voluntary and must enable refugees to return safely and with dignity to their home countries.

Local integration: The agreement of a host country to allow refugees to remain permanently in that country. Local integration enables refugees to enjoy a wider range of rights in the community, become self-reliant through the establishment of livelihoods, and live without discrimination while maintaining their own cultural identity.


Resettlement: Resettlement is a process that allows refugees to settle permanently in a third country when they are unable to return to their country of origin or integrate locally in the country of asylum. For millions of refugees who remain in camps or urban settlements with little hope of returning and limited opportunities to integrate locally, resettlement can provide the best opportunity for a meaningful future. Once resettled, refugees make significant contributions to the communities in which they live.

Are there any famous refugees?Top

Yes. Some famous refugees are: Albert Einstein, Nobel Laureate; Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State; Tom Lantos, US Congressman; Gloria Estefan, singer; General John Shalikashvili, former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; Andrew Grove, Chairman of the Intel Corporation; Chinua Achebe, poet and novelist; Isabel Allende, author; and Hannah Arendt, political theorist.

Why does FORGE focus on refugees?Top

The World Bank notes three dimensions of poverty: lack of income and assets; voicelessness and powerlessness in the institutions of state and society; and vulnerability to adverse shocks. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) argues that refugees suffer from all three conditions.

Such poverty can lead refugees to a range of negative survival tactics – many of which affect local host populations – such as the degradation of the environment, prostitution, petty theft, and child labor. The work of FORGE and other agencies strives to offer refugees a way out of poverty, as well as alleviate some of the burden local communities face when hosting refugees, which may ease tensions between refugees and the local community.

FORGE believes that refugees are not simply passive victims who need protection and assistance. They can play a key role in subsequent peace negotiations and reconstruction efforts. Any approach to the refugee crisis must be underpinned by a notion of respect for refugees and their capacity to bring about change and be productive, and FORGE is driven by the pursuit of refugee self-reliance. Elements of such a strategy include providing refugees with physical, legal, and economic security; removing barriers to self-reliance; and creating opportunities.