At the end of 2016 there were 65.6 million refugees around the world – the highest number since records of international refugee movements began. This included 40.3 million people who had fled to other areas of their own countries to escape conflicts, persecution and severe human rights abuses. 22.5 million people had sought refuge in another country. The three main countries of origin were Syria (5.5 million), Afghanistan (2.5 million) and South Sudan (1.4 million). Half of the refugees around the world are under 18 years of age, and 2.8 million of the 65.6 million are seeking asylum.
So the vast majority of people fleeing conflicts and violence, hunger and extreme poverty, or the effects of climate change seek refuge in their own countries or in neighbouring states. Welthungerhilfe has been active in these countries for a long time, working with people at very different stages of flight. Welthungerhilfe projects currently enable about 2.7 million refugees and internally displaced people to lead dignified lives. Welthungerhilfe draws on this practical experience to push for a change in policy on treatment of refugees, focusing on German and European policy on refugees and migration.
As the flow of refugees has grown, the total number of migrants has reached a new high of 244 million. Apart from refugees, these migrants are mainly people who want to escape wretched conditions or a lack of prospects in their home countries, mostly in search of work or education. While refugees and forced migrants come under the protection of the Geneva Convention, other forms of migration are not regulated.
Policy must promote sustainable development
Fighting the causes of flight and forced migration cannot just be a matter for aid organisations or development policy. Humanitarian initiatives can reduce suffering and create prospects outside countries of origin, but the root causes can only be overcome through a holistic policy approach, primarily involving foreign policy and security policy. Welthungerhilfe believes this policy should create the conditions for sustainable development, geared to Agenda 2030. It should include fair trading relations, fair financial, economic and environmental policy, and strategies for preventing crises and conflicts. This is the best way to fight the causes of flight in the long term.
In the current debate, Welthungerhilfe takes the position that we should not try to eliminate migration, but manage it appropriately. People generally do not want to leave their home countries; development cooperation can help ensure that they are able to make their own decisions, and that they are not forced to leave. It can also play an important role in creating prospects and job opportunities for those returning to their home countries.
Fighting the Causes of Flight, Not Just the Symptoms
Welthungerhilfe supports people who have fled from many crisis regions, providing emergency accommodation, distributing food, and organising schooling. As many years of project experience have shown, people will only stay in their home countries if the conditions are in place for a better future. For this reason, people who have fled are not just offered the bare necessities, but rather assistance geared to a long-term and sustainable improvement in living conditions. Worthwhile prospects can be created in the areas where people would like to stay by improving the level of education and training, promoting rural development, and creating jobs.