African Refugees and Immigrants: Challenges, Changes, ChampionsEthiopian Community Development Council16
National Conference3 May 2010Arlington, VirginiaRemarks by David H. ShinnElliott School of International AffairsGeorge Washington UniversityIntroductionMy remarks today will focus on refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)in Africa. Internally displaced people leave their usual place of residence in order toescape from famine, persecution, armed conflict or violence. But they remain in their country of origin. Refugees move for the same reasons but cross an international border to seek refuge.According to the 1951 convention on the status of refugees, a refugee is definedas a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race,religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, isoutside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwillingto avail himself to the protection of that country.”Refugees in AfricaWhile Africa, including North Africa, constitutes about 15 percent of the world’stotal population, it accounts for about one-fifth of the world’s refugees and almost half of the world’s IDPs. The good news is that the number of refugees in Africa has beenfalling in recent years. Depending on crises around the world, the refugee and IDPstatistics change significantly from one year to the next.According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), there were at theend of 2008 about ten million refugees worldwide. Asia and the Middle East eachaccounted for a higher number of refugees than Africa. The three largest African refugee producing countries at the end of 2008 were Somalia (560,000), Sudan (420,000) and theDemocratic Republic of the Congo (370,000). The three most important African refugeehosting countries at the end of 2008 were Chad (330,000), Tanzania (322,000) and Kenya(320,000).In recent years, with the exception of Zimbabwe, southern Africa has producedrelatively few refugees. The Sahel region, except for Chad, has also been relatively freeof refugees recently. While Africa continues to produce a disproportionate number of theworld’s refugees in relation to its total population, its share of the global refugee problemhas actually been falling since the early 1990s. As recently as 1994, Africa had almosthalf of the world’s refugees.