82.4 million people have fled their homes
Never before have there been so many displaced people as today. According to UNHCR figures, already at the end of last year, the total number of refugees worldwide reached 82.4 million. That is roughly equivalent to Germany’s total number of inhabitants.
The larger share of those who have been forced to flee their homes, 48 million, are internally displaced persons. These people have lost their homes but are seeking refuge within their own country.
A smaller share, 34.4 million people, are asylum seekers and persons who have fled to another country to escape persecution, war and armed conflict. Most of them live in the vicinity of their own countries. A mere five countries, which include Germany, are providing refuge to the largest share of this group. They have taken in nearly 40% of displaced persons across the globe.
Germany is the second-largest supporter of UNHCR
Germany is working to ease humanitarian suffering, both as a host country and through its efforts worldwide. As the second-largest donor country for humanitarian assistance, it is assuming a great deal of responsibility. This also applies to protecting and caring for refugees. That is why, in 2021, Germany provided some 400 million euro in support to UNHCR. With Germany’s financial contribution, UNHCR was, for example, able to react swiftly to new developments when in August 2021 the humanitarian crisis in and around Afghanistan suddenly escalated.
The full amount that will be made available for 2022 will most likely be many times the 120 million euro that have already been committed. The currently earmarked funds are primarily intended to provide UNHCR with planning certainty. In the last two years, the UNHCR’s annual financial requirements have amounted to between 8 and 9 billion US dollars.
The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees: adopted 70 years ago and still crucially important
In 1951, in the aftermath of the Second World War, a large of number of countries agreed to adopt an international treaty: the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The Convention was designed to regulate the legal status of those people who, “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”, have to flee their homes. The Convention provides the basis for the work of the UNHCR. In 1967, it was amended by an important protocol so as to extend the protection of refugees beyond that of 1951. Over the past 70 years, the Convention and UNHCR have helped ensure the protection of millions of refugees. Particularly as a result of its historical responsibility, Germany strives to ensure that refugees are protected and that the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is respected.
In view of the constantly growing numbers of refugees and in some cases decades-long refugee situations, the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees needs to be strengthened and other initiatives, such as the Global Compact on Refugees, need to be put into practice. Germany is working to this end, together with its humanitarian partner organisations, including UNHCR, as well as the international community.
Scholarships for refugees
The Federal Foreign Office has been supporting the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative of the UNHCR since 1992. The initiative awards scholarships to young refugees. These scholarships enable the recipients to gain a university degree, which gives them prospects for the future and a chance of becoming economically independent. There are also additional support programmes aimed specifically at disadvantaged women. Refugees who win funding from the initiative can study in their new country, which will have fewer costs to bear thanks to the scholarship. Over 18,000 scholarships have been awarded to date (as of May 2020) in over 50 countries. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular has shown the importance of higher education for refugees, especially in medicine and other health professions.