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Why Refugees & Displaced Persons Flee Their Countries

by Femme Staff
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Every human being has a right to access all the basic needs of life. This guarantees access to food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, sanitation and survival without discrimination. This right is always infringed upon in many ways and goes against human rights standards where regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status, one should be treated as a human being.

The state of refugees in the world has been increasing in recent times. People are unwillingly fleeing their country seeking better places in which to even just survive. We have seen and heard of people leaving their homes and sometimes families behind because of circumstances that cannot enable them to survive in the country they were born in. African countries such as Somalia, Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo have had their citizens leave not knowing whether they will even arrive safely in neighbouring countries let alone survive. Since 2011, Syrians have filled boats in numbers hoping to find habitable places to stay in European countries.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 65.3 million refugees in the world. So why have people fled their countries unwillingly? How do people become refugees?

Broken down Community Systems

Communities are the very core that tie African societies together. And yet these are the ties that get broken in many African nations due to tribal and political conflicts. Broken communities dislodge the daily survival of people and families and often leave them feeling isolated. Programs like education and economic activities that are community oriented can no longer operate.  Countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, and Democratic republic of Congo have had their communities disrupted by war and rebel activity, to a point where life becomes completely unbearable.

Out of these wars also sprout the most unfortunate scenario – rape and abduction of women and children. There is also the disheartening phenomenon of child soldiers where the young are forcibly inducted into rebel armies. Kids we see carrying guns that are seemingly bigger and heavier than them.

Such conditions are certainly not conducive to growth and refugees are better off elsewhere and this is how come Africa records such high refugee numbers.


The right to food is a basic human right. Many Africans survive on farming, be it subsistence or large scale. But if people are too afraid to even venture out to their small farms for fear of rebel capture for example, how then can they feed themselves and their families? In war torn countries, the lack of farming or economic activity spirals very fast into extreme poverty with the ripple effect bringing on full on famine. People affected will soon have no other option than to flee their countries to countries where they can at least be fed.


The political situation in a country can lead internally displaced people within a country who will then choose to flee to other neighbouring countries. We saw this clearly in Kenya after the unfortunate post election violence that rocked the country after the 2007/08 general elections. Displaced people had to flee mostly to Uganda.

Religious persecutions

Religions groups are being persecuted all around the world. This is not new as it has been happening as far back as the 17th Century when Protestants fled religious persecution in France. During Hitler’s time, Jews were persecuted leading to the Holocaust between 1941 and 1945. Currently, Muslims are being persecuted in Myanmar and Christians in the Central African Republic. In other situation, when citizens flee their country, they cannot be accepted in Muslim countries if they are Christian and vis a vis Muslims into Christian Nations. People will choose to flee in order to save their own lives than go through all this.


War is by far the biggest reason why people flee their countries and history is littered with incidents of the same. People flee either due to direct or indirect consequences of war. Countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Somalia have registered the highest number of refugees globally. For more than two decades between 1981 and 2013, Afghanistan registered the largest number of refugees in the world right before Syria which has now registered more than 900,000 refugees.

No one wants to live in a country where bombs, bullet filled air, grenades and land mines are the order of the day. Where you are not sure whether you will get to see tomorrow or even the next hour. Where scenes of blood and hate is part of daily life.

Closer home in Africa, the refugee problem has touched just about every country, with Kenya hosting close to 500,000 of them between Kakuma, Dadaab and in camps in Nairobi.

Gender and Sexual Orientation

The LBGTQI community faces backlash in countries that do not support their sexual orientation. According to UNHCR, they become ‘targets of killings, sexual and gender-based violence, physical attacks, torture, arbitrary detention, accusations of immoral or deviant behaviour, denial of the rights to assembly, expression and information, and discrimination in employment, health and education in all regions around the world’. This forces them to unwillingly flee to countries that accept anyone regardless of their orientation.

Environmental Refugees

Climate Change is a major challenge facing the entire globe. The rising sea levels, desertification, soil erosion and shrinking freshwater supplies have resulted to people fleeing their own countries. Floods and landslides are destroying people’s houses causing them to flee. Earthquakes are also physically displacing people from their hometowns.

The refugee problem is becoming bigger and bigger the world over and efforts are being put to ease things in different parts. In Africa for example, the Luquluqu campaign aims to redefine this problem and involve communities outside of the humanitarian world to be part of the solution. Here is how you can participate.

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