Fleeing the Fighting: How conflict drives the search for asylum, is a report released today (14 June) to mark the start of Refugee Week (14-20 June). It reveals how conflict causes people to flee their homes, friends and family to seek sanctuary in other countries, including the UK. The report also reveals the impact these conflicts have on asylum claims to the UK. According to available Home Office statistics, up to three-quarters (around 74%) of asylum applications are made by people from countries where conflicts are occurring, as defined by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (1).
Conflict is just one of the global causes of forced migration and displacement, and many people around the world still face persecution in countries that are not at war, such as Zimbabwe, where human rights abuses are well documented. People also flee conflict countries for other human rights reasons.
The report, from organisations including Amnesty International, Refugee Action, Refugee Council and Save the Children, (2) examines conflicts around the world and their impact on civilians.
Disturbing reports from seven countries currently caught up in conflict, and refugees’ own personal stories of how they came to seek sanctuary in Britain, provide a stark reminder of who asylum seekers are and why they are here.
Conflict in Sudan, for example, has forced around four million people from their homes. Over half a million have fled Sudan, mainly to neighbouring countries. Tens of thousands live in squalid camps in Chad. Only a fraction of this total, around 930 Sudanese people, applied for asylum in the UK last year.
Speaking on behalf of the agencies, Refugee Council Chief Executive Maeve Sherlock said:
“People are not choosing to leave – they are choosing to live. Faced with the prospect of death, or rape and torture at the hands of soldiers and armed militia, millions of people every year flee their homes.
“As tough policies and hostile attitudes make it ever more difficult to seek asylum in Britain, this report is a timely reminder of one of the main reasons people come here seeking protection – conflict. Refugees are people forced to flee their homes in fear of their lives – this is a fact that is all too often overlooked.
“The international safety-net of refugee protection is needed more than ever. Refugee Week celebrates both the UK’s tradition of offering sanctuary to people fleeing conflict, persecution and other human rights abuses, and the positive contribution that refugees have made and continue to make to the UK.”
The report released today focuses on war and conflict to reflect the theme of Refugee Week 2004. (3). It examines conflicts in seven key refugee-producing countries around the world – Afghanistan, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Russia, Somalia and Sudan – and the impact of the conflicts on civilians and on the movement of refugees:
Widespread factional fighting and insecurity continues after 23 years of conflict. Rape and violence by armed factions.
More than 3,000 civilians were killed for political motives in 2003. The military, paramilitaries and guerrilla groups have all been implicated. At least 600 “disappeared” and around 2,200 people were kidnapped as part of the long-running internal armed conflict.
Democratic Republic of Congo
More than three million killed and another 3.4 million uprooted from their homes since 1998 in fighting between government forces and rebel groups.
Hundreds of civilians killed by armed groups and coalition forces since the end of the US-led war. Women and girls increasingly face violent attacks including rape, murder and abduction.
Killings and other human rights abuses by all sides of the conflict in Chechnya have caused tens of thousands of Chechens to flee to neighbouring Ingushetia and other countries.
No rule of law or security after 12 years of conflict and state collapse. Hundreds of thousands displaced. Fighting between factions in the capital continues to claim civilian lives.
Millions killed and millions more displaced. Renewed fighting in Darfur region has displaced around a million people, many fleeing Sudan altogether.
Notes to Editors
(1) Figure based on Home Office statistics for 2003, and “Conflict countries” on current armed conflicts identified by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS). The IISS definition of armed conflict includes: international armed border and territorial conflict involving governments in armed conflict over sovereignty territory; internal armed conflicts taking place between government forces and organised groups, which control sufficient territory to sustain concerted military operations; and ‘terrorist’ attacks involving one or more factions in significant armed opposition to a state. The intensity of violence in such attacks varies. Violence directly attributable to organised crime is not included.
(2) Refugee Week is a partnership project involving the UK’s leading charities that work with refugees. These include Amnesty International UK, British Red Cross, International Rescue Committee UK, Refugee Action, Refugee Council, Save the Children, Scottish Refugee Council, Student Action for Refugees (STAR), UNHCR and Welsh Refugee Council. For more information visit www.refugeeweek.org.uk
(3) Refugee Week features a programme of events around the country from concerts, exhibitions, football tournaments and film screenings to talks and seminars, helping to demonstrate the positive contribution made by refugees to the United Kingdom.
Download Fleeing the Fighting: How conflict drives the search for asylum (PDF). You will need Acrobat Reader to download the report, which you can get free from the Adobe website.
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For press information:
Amnesty International UK: Steve Ballinger – 020 7417 6355 or Neil Durkin – 020 7814 6241/ out of hours – 07721 398984
Refugee Council: Hannah Ward – Tel 020 7840 4404/ out of hours 0870 055 6931 pager no. 865 169
Save the Children: Pippa Ranger – Tel 020 7012 6843
Refugee Action: Rachel Watson – 020 7654 7714 or Susie Renshaw – 020 7654 0673
Welsh Refugee Council: Zahid Noor – 029 2043 2977 or 07976 771 772
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