Who is a refugee?
A refugee is legally defined as a person who is outside his or her country of nationality and is unable to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution because of his or her race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
By receiving refugee status, individuals are guaranteed protection of their basic human rights, and cannot be forced to return to a country where they fear persecution.
In 2010, there were 15.4 million refugees around the world, including 4.8 million Palestinian refugees, and it is estimated that 80 percent of refugees are women and children. According to the UN Refugee Agency, the leading countries of origin for refugees in 2010 were:
•Afghanistan: 3 million
•Iraq: 500,000 – 1.7 million
•DR Congo: 476,700
Who is an internally displaced person (IDP)?
Internally displaced people (IDPs) have been forced to leave their homes as a result of armed conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations, but unlike refugees they have not crossed an international border.
Although internally displaced people outnumber refugees by more than two to one, no single UN or other international agency has responsibility for responding to internal displacement. As a result, the global response to the needs of IDPs is often ineffective.
In 2010, there were an estimated 27.5 million people displaced internally by conflict. The largest populations of internally displaced people are found in:
•Sudan: 4.5 – 5.2 million
•Colombia: 3.6 – 5.2 million
•Iraq: 1.3 – 2.8 million
•DR Congo: 1.7 million
•Somalia: 1.5 million
Who is a stateless person?
Stateless people are individuals who do not have a legal bond of nationality with any state, including people who have never acquired citizenship of their birth country or who have lost their citizenship and have no claim to citizenship of another state.
Children of stateless people often are born into statelessness and few manage to escape that status. According to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, a de jure stateless person is someone “not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law.”
Persons are considered de facto stateless if they have an ineffective nationality, cannot prove they are legally stateless, or if one or more countries dispute their citizenship.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has the international mandate for responding to the needs of stateless people and leading the global effort to reduce statelessness. Historically, however, the agency has devoted few resources to this aspect of its mandate.
There are an estimated twelve million stateless people around the world. Refugees International focuses its efforts on reducing statelessness, particularly for the following populations:
•Syria: more than 300,000 denationalized Kurds
•Kuwait: 93,000 Bidoon
•Dominican Republic: an estimated 900,000 to 1.2 million undocumented individuals of Haitian origin, many of who are stateless or at risk of statelessness
What is an asylum seeker?
An asylum seeker is a person who is seeking to be recognized as a refugee, but has not yet received formal refugee status. During 2010, a total of 845,800 individual applications for asylum or refugee status were submitted to governments and UNHCR offices in 166 countries.
The highest numbers of new asylum claims in 2010 were filed by Zimbabweans, with 149,400 new claims. Large numbers of asylum-seekers also originated from Somalia, DR Congo, Afghanistan and Colombia.