Why is this essential?
Each year millions of people are forced to leave their homes and seek refuge from conflicts, violence, human rights violations, persecution or natural disasters. The majority of today's refugees live in the developing world, which means that they flee to countries already struggling with poverty and hardship. Their survival usually depends on the availability of assistance which is provided by local communities and international organisations.
There are over 51 million people in dire need of protection and assistance as a consequence of forced displacement. They include refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and asylum-seekers. Globally, over 33 million people are displaced within their own country, while more than 16 million refugees who have sought safe haven in other countries and over 1 million asylum-seekers. Alarmingly, half of the global refugee population are children, the highest proportion in 10 years. Women and girls represent 49% of the entire refugee population (source: UNHCR Global Trends 2013).
Afghanistan and Syria remain the largest source of refugees, both with an estimated 2.5 million refugees, followed by Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Around four-fifths of the world's refugees have fled from the crisis areas into neighbouring countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
How are we helping?
As leading global donor, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) allocated more than €546 million or some 42% of its annual humanitarian aid budget in 2013 to projects assisting refugees and IDPs in 33 countries. Humanitarian aid for refugees delivered by the European Commission helps to: meet the most pressing needs of refugees; protect and support refugees during their displacement and when returning to their place of origin; increase the self-reliance of refugees and reduce their 'dependency syndrome'.
ECHO invests heavily in assisting refugees who are trapped in protracted situations, which affects more than 75% of the world's refugees. ECHO is currently responding to needs of refugee population such as : Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan, Somali refugees in Kenya and Yemen, Congolese refugees in the Great Lake region, Colombian refugees in Ecuador and Venezuela, Myanmar refugees in Thailand, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and Sahrawi refugees.
The EU and its partner organisations, in particular UNHCR, have an important role in advocating for and enabling durable solutions for refugees, especially with regard to fulfilling the right of return to their countries of origin or habitual residence. In this respect European Commission services are working closely to ensure that complimentary funding instruments work towards enhancing self-reliance, livelihoods and socio-economic opportunities of these vulnerable populations.
The Commission channels its support through organisations helping with migrants, refugees and IDPs. ECHO's main partners include UNHCR, the International Organisation for Migration, the Red Cross and Red Crescent family and non-governmental organisations.