From a global perspective, the phenomenon of flight is nothing new; rather, it has been a tragic constant, especially during the past few decades. Nevertheless, the number of those seeking sanctuary around the globe has been rising for years. The war in Syria has moved the crucible of crisis closer to Europe; however, the numerous and unrelenting conflicts in Eritrea, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere have tested the limits of the international refugee regime.
More than 70 million people worldwide are fleeing war, violence and persecution. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, an average of 44,400 people had to leave their homes every day. 41.3 million of them are internally displaced, 3.5 million are awaiting the outcome of their asylum procedure, and nearly 25 million are fleeing to other countries. More than half of these refugees are under the age of 18. The number of internally displaced persons has also increased in recent years. This is an indication that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find asylum in safe foreign countries in the event of armed conflict.
Even in the case of cross-border flight, few are at the gates of Europe. Nine out of ten people who are on the run flee to immediate neighboring countries. 84 percent of all refugees are taken in by developing countries (in 2003, the figure was still 70 percent), and almost a third of all refugees find refuge in the Least Developed Countries, i.e. in countries where people have an average of less than $1.25 per day at their disposal. Measured in terms of economic prosperity, Europe takes in very few refugees. Only 1 to 2 percent of all refugees worldwide come to Europe.
This is also due to the lack of safe escape routes for them. Instead, many of the escape routes involve great danger for people, such as the journey in unsafe boats across the Mediterranean.
Around 78 percent of the world's refugees are in so-called "protracted situations," long-term situations that last an average of twenty years and thus become a permanent matter with completely new challenges for the people in the camps and the host countries.
With regard to European refugee policy, topics such as:
often at the center of the political debate.
In this context, refugees are often seen as an anonymous mass of people against whom one has to seal oneself off. In this way, the individual legal rights of refugees, which are based on the Geneva Refugee Convention, among other things, and the underlying causes of flight are sometimes disregarded and ignored. However, a solidarity-based refugee policy in Europe can improve cooperation and the sharing of responsibilities among states worldwide.
In German refugee policy, too, questions of reception capacity are often set against the rights of refugees. Questions about asylum, deportation and accommodation in large refugee shelters often dominate the public debate. The classification of states as "safe countries of origin" is also intended to relieve the asylum system in this regard. What is needed instead, however, are global pacts and national readiness to accept refugees so that they can exercise their right to protection.
Although there are still many construction sites, Germany is taking responsibility and trying to offer those seeking protection a perspective on life. Many people throughout the country are helping with this and are getting involved both in the concrete situation of the first arrival and in the task of permanent integration and are forming friendships with the refugees.
On this page you will find analyses of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung on German, European and worldwide refugee policy as well as background reports and information on the situation of refugees.