Today, more than 65 million people have been displaced. The number forced to leave their homes is higher than ever before. Root causes for displacement are war, armed conflict, political repression, the violation of human rights, terrorism and food shortages. One of the main causes of the present refugee crisis is the protracted civil war in Syria. Roughly 15.9 million people have left Syria. Additionally, approximately 6.6 million Syrians have been displaced within their own country. As a result, Syria has the highest number of refugees. In addition, ongoing conflicts, such as those in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and South Sudan, contribute to the increased numbers of refugees. Moreover, new root causes for displacement have emerged, such as natural disasters triggered by extreme weather events, which are significantly more frequent due to climate change. Consequently, there are currently approximately 22.5 million refugees who have left their home countries and there are more than 40 million internally displaced persons, i.e. people  forced to leave their homes but who did not cross a state border.

Approximately 84% of refugees forced to leave their home countries are hosted by developing countries. The majority of theses countries are poor and often incapable of providing basic services to their own population. The simultaneous arrival of many refugees on short notice often creates severe capacity problems for the host countries’ regional and municipal infrastructure and provision of public services. Health and education systems, as well as municipal infrastructure such as water supply systems, are often overburdened. As a result, both refugees and the local population suffer from such problems, and host countries are increasingly confronted with the economic and social consequences of the refugee crisis. Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Uganda and Ethiopia  as the main host countries are in particular faced with this situation. An end to the refugee crisis is not in sight: in 2016, an estimated 10.3 million people were newly displaced from their homes due to conflicts or persecution. The civil war in Syria continues, the state apparatus in Afghanistan is struggling to deal with insurgent forces, and terrorist organizations remain a persistent threat in many other countries. In Africa, Somalia and South Sudan are plagued by internal conflicts and state collapse while Sudan and Nigeria are increasingly fragile. As a result, the number of people that are forced to leave their homes continues to rise. 

How can development cooperation tackle the root causes for displacement and mitigate the consequences of the refugee crisis? First, refugees’ physical safety and access to basic services must be ensured, both in countries of origin and host countries. Measures should thereby benefit both refugees and the local population, as the latter also suffers from the situation. The aim should be to mitigate the consequences of the refugee crisis in the host regions, counteract overburdened regional and municipal infrastructure and services, and reduce potential for conflict at the local level. In the midterm, measures should aim at preparing refugees to return to their home countries or integrating them in host communities. Two-thirds of all refugees have been displaced for an average of three years, and half of them for ten years. Decades of instability and conflicts (such as in Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere) continue, resulting in millions who still cannot return home. In 2016, only 3 % of the overall refugee population returned to their home countires. Protracted displacement has become reality for numerous refugees. The root causes for displacement can only be alleviated by long-term, preventive measures. The affected countries and regions need to be stabilized politically and economically, in both the short and long term. Destroyed (state) structures need to be reestablished and educational and job opportunities must be improved to create prospects for people to remain in their home countries. This requires both sustainable development and the involvement of local populations in decision-making processes.

Technical working groups on the topic of refugees, displacement, and migration

GFA has maintained a reliable network of strategic partnerships for many years in order to meet complex challenges and contexts more effectively in various geographical regions. Bringing local expertise on board through dialogue enabeles us to adapt our technical concepts to the local context. That, in turn, reinforces ownership. New topics are integrated into the existing GFA structures on an ongoing basis. Due to their complex interrelations, many topics are often interdisciplinary in nature. Therefore, GFA first builds on concepts and solutions across technical areas and departments in interdisciplinary working groups. This facilitates optimal use of the company’s wide range of technical and methodological competences and broad regional know-how.

We tackle the topic of refugees, displacement, and migration in the technical working group “Refugees & Migration”. Here, we combine our in-house expertise to monitor trends and developments concerning the current refugee crisis and keep a close eye on its possible impacts. Furthermore, the technical working group focuses on conceptual discussions and developing project approaches to provide services to refugees and internally displaced persons, stabilize host countries, and combat the root causes of displacement. We focus in particular on the principles and goals of German development cooperation in this field. In other technical working groups, our experts also address various specialist aspects of the transversal topic of refugees, migration and displacement (Figure 3). In their work on refugees, displacement and migration, all technical working groups rely on expertise from ongoing GFA projects in relevant fields of intervention. In the past five years alone, we have carried out more than 130 projects directly related to this topic, focal regions, and specific topics identified by BMZ (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development).