European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Forced displacement: refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people (IDPs)

Improving water, hygiene and sanitation in South Sudan
What is it?

Every year, millions of people are forced to leave their homes due to conflict, violence, human rights violations, persecution, and natural hazards. The number of forcibly displaced people continued to rise in 2019, calling for increased humanitarian assistance across the world. At the end of 2019, 79.5 million people required protection and assistance because of forced displacement. This is the equivalent of 1 person becoming displaced every 2 seconds. Most refugees live in urban areas followed by those living in camps or rural areas. When a crisis erupts, internally displaced people (IDPs) are often among the most vulnerable.

Why is this important?

Up to 85% of the forcibly displaced are hosted by low- and middle-income countries, which puts a strain on host communities and resources. Their survival depends on the availability of assistance provided by the authorities, local communities and humanitarian organisations.

Both refugees and IDPs often face protection challenges and lack access to shelter, food, and other basic services. In urban areas in particular, they struggle with poverty, lack of psychosocial support and various difficulties in normalising their legal status. Violence, abuse and exploitation against them often peak in the aftermath of new emergencies.

Finding durable solutions for the forcibly displaced is a challenge. Voluntary repatriation to their home countries is the preferred long-term outcome for refugees, but the lack of political solutions to conflicts, recurrent violence and instability prevent many from doing so. Forced displacement is no longer a temporary phenomenon as it has become increasingly protracted. Displacement lasts 20 years on average for refugees and more than 10 years for most IDPs.

How are we helping?

In April 2016, the European Commission adopted the Communication 'Lives in Dignity: from Aid-dependence to Self-reliance. Forced Displacement and Development', presenting a development-led approach to forced displacement. The objective is to strengthen the resilience and self-reliance of both the displaced and their host communities, working with host governments and local actors to support the gradual socio-economic inclusion of refugees and IDPs. The approach aims to harness the productive capacities of refugees and IDPs by helping them access education, healthcare, housing, land, livelihood support, and other basic services.

The European Union is a leading international donor in situations of forced displacement. In 2020, the Commission allocated most of its humanitarian budget of more than €900 million to projects that address the needs of forcibly displaced and local communities.

This funding helped meet the most urgent needs of extremely vulnerable populations including women, children, and people with disabilities, protecting and supporting them during displacement and when returning to their homes. Projects implemented on the ground helped the forcibly displaced access shelter, protection, food and basic services such as healthcare, nutritional assistance, safe water, sanitation, and education.

About 35% of the humanitarian aid reached refugees and IDPs in the form of cash transfers (debit cards, mobile transfers, cash in hand). Cash provides refugees and IDPs with a sense of dignity and independence and serves to tighten links with local communities, as aid money is spent in small local businesses. In Education in Emergencies, more than half of the projects supported targeted refugee and IDP children.

The EU assistance to the forcibly displaced is making a difference in the lives of many: Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey; Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan; Somali refugees in Kenya; Congolese refugees in the Great Lakes region; Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the region; and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. It also targets IDPs in Syria, Colombia, South Sudan, Iraq, Myanmar, and Yemen, among others.

The Commission channels its financial support to forced displacement situations through organisations dealing with refugees, IDPs, migrants and host communities on the ground. Its main humanitarian partners include the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
To ensure a more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing among states, the European Union supports the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees. Adopted in 2018, it built on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), which in 2017 and 2018 was rolled out in several countries for greater support to refugees and host countries.

The EU strongly supports the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, and systematically promotes the inclusion of these principles in international and national law. The EU also advocates raising international attention to IDPs and welcomes the recent creation of the High Level Panel on Internal Displacement, mandated to provide recommendations for improvements in response to reach durable solutions.

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