Here to Where?: Tracking 2 Decades of Refugee Flows

Source: Luca Catalano Gonzaga
Crisis Yet Again
Famine has once again veered its vicious head in the Horn of Africa in what is now the first famine of the 21st century and one of the 'biggest humanitarian crisis' of current time (but which crisis isn't?). Refugees are spilling over the borders of Somalia, this time not because of war, but because of drought and hunger. The mass influx of refugees is pushing the boundaries of the already largest refugee complex in the world: Dadaab. What started 20 years ago to hold 90,000 Somali refugees, Dadaab has expanded to now house more than 350,000 refugees with thousands more arriving each day. In just the first few months of 2011, the number of refugees that have arrived has almost reached the total number who arrived in 2010. The UNHCR estimates that by the end of the year, more than 450,000 people will be living in Dadaab. The camp is past its bursting point. The refugees living there are stuck in a political purgatory - caught between their home and their destination (albeit unknown). So what happens to refugees after they've arrived at camps? Most remain there, some go home either voluntarily for "voluntarily" (meaning they are forced to return), but some (the 'lucky' ones depending on how you see it) are relocated abroad. 

One would assume that most refugees being repatriated abroad would originate from Africa, specifically from Dadaab refugee camp, but that is not the case. A significant number originate from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, the West Bank/Gaza, Colombia, Vietnam, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Orange: Origin of U.S. Refugees in 2008. Green: Destination of U.S. Refugees in 2008.

It is interesting to see where refugees are relocated and where they come from. For example, in 2008, the United States accepted 260,738 refugees from mainly Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Colombia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2008, 1,746 people departed from the U.S. as refugees...all went to Canada (not kidding!).

Origins and Destinations of U.S. Refugees in 2008 (color coded by continent)

The country producing the most number of refugees in 2008 was Afghanistan (and for good reason), with most being relocated to Pakistan, Iran, and Germany. The second country producing the most refugees is Iraq (I'm noticing a corolation between U.S. occupation and number of refugees...), with those refugees relocated to a wide variety of countries, but primarily to Syria, Iran, Jordan, and Germany.

Flow of Iraqi Refugees in 2008. Iraq produced 1,866,716 Refugees and had 38,841 Arrivals (from Iran, Gaza, and Turkey)

So back to Somalia - a country that is now the origin of far more refugees than their destination. In 2008, 551,817 refugees fled Somalia with the vast majority going to Kenya (where Dadaab is located) followed by Ethiopia and Yemen. In 2008 only 1,700 refugees fled to Somalia, all from Ethiopia. However, three years in a row Somalia accepted more refugees than it produced. Can you guess what years those were and where the refugees were from? 1988-1990 and all were from Ethiopia (remember, a huge famine reeked havoc on the Horn of Africa in 1984). 

As a person who works with a refugee family from Nepal/Bhutan, I'm fascinated by the flow of refugees worldwide. It's not so much the countries that produce the refugees that interests me (all you need to do to figure that out is look where there is conflict), but rather the countries that accept refugees, because developing nations accept more refugees than developed nations do (Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, and Ethiopia accept the most).

To access all the awesome interactive maps I showed above, check out Flight and Expulsion, which allows you to compare nations and track the ebb and flow of refugees for the past 2 decades. Fascinating stuff there!

In other news, keep yourself updated on the famine in Somalia and the Horn and I'll do my best to try so myself. To keep up with all the newest information regarding the famine and drought, check these sources frequently:
Humanitarian News
MSF Somalia Tumblr
World Food Programme


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