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The State of The World's Refugees 1993: The Challenge of Protection

State of the World's Refugees, 1 January 1993

By 1993, 18.2 million men, women, and children across the world had left their homelands to escape persecution and violence. An average of 10,000 refugees a day were forced to flee the year before, as new upheavals forced out new victims. At least another 24 million were displaced within their own countries. Yet despite these staggering numbers and the backlash they have provoked in overburdened countries of asylum, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees believes there is a solution to the international refugee crisis.

This important book illuminates the problems and their causes with informed analysis, detailed charts, and discussions of policy alternatives. It voices an urgent plea that doors be kept open for those in need of asylum. It is also an eloquent appeal for early intervention by the international community, whose peacemaking efforts could prevent further crises before they start, and could enable millions of refugees to return safely to their homes once again.





The protection of millions of uprooted or stateless people is UNHCR's core mandate.

Refugee Protection in International Law

Edited by Erika Feller, Volker Türk and Frances Nicholson, published 2003 by Cambridge University Press

The State of the World's Refugees

These six editions of UNHCR's The State of the World's Refugees provide detailed, in-depth analysis of the plight of the world's millions of displaced people. The authors examine the major crises and challenges faced by UNHCR for over fifty years.

Teaching About Refugees, History

History includes refugees

Throughout history, political turmoil has victimized many civilian families, forcing them to flee their homes. Refugee outflows and other massive displacements of people are a key aspect of many international crises. For children, in particular, looking at world events from the point of view of a refugee family can give new meaning and a sense of reality to events that may otherwise seem abstract and far away. The theme can be introduced in:

Medieval/early modern history: The religious wars.

Contemporary history: World War I, the Russian Revolution, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Second World War and Nazism, colonization and decolonization in Africa, Soviet influence in Central and Eastern Europe, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Vietnam War, the dictatorships in Latin-America - all these events and many more have victimized millions of people and forced them to flee their homes, families and communities.

9-11 year olds Refugees in History
12-14 year olds The Rwandan Crisis 1994
15-18 year olds Population Displacement in the Commonwealth of Independent States


Studying history can provide an opportunity to examine refugee outflows and displacement.

Nansen Biography

Fridtjof Nansen was a scientist, polar explorer, diplomat, statesman and humanist, with a deep compassion for his fellow human beings. In 1921 Nansen was appointed the League of Nations' first High Commissioner for Refugees and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the following year in recognition of his work for refugees. UNHCR established the Nansen Refugee Award in his honour in 1954.

Nansen Biography

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

This gallery highlights the history of UNHCR's efforts to help some of the world's most disenfranchised people to find a place called home, whether through repatriation, resettlement or local integration.

After decades of hospitality after World War II, as the global political climate changed and the number of people cared for by UNHCR swelled from around one million in 1951, to more than 27 million people in the mid-1990s, the welcome mat for refugees was largely withdrawn.

Voluntary repatriation has become both the preferred and only practical solution for today's refugees. In fact, the great majority of them choose to return to their former homes, though for those who cannot do so for various reasons, resettlement in countries like the United States and Australia, and local integration within regions where they first sought asylum, remain important options.

This gallery sees Rwandans returning home after the 1994 genocide; returnees to Kosovo receiving reintegration assistance; Guatemalans obtaining land titles in Mexico; and Afghans flocking home in 2003 after decades in exile.

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

Looking Back: When Hungary's Borders with Austria Opened for East Germans

It's not often that a single sentence can send a photographer rushing into action, but Hungarian photographer Barnabas Szabo did not have to hear more than that of then-Hungarian Foreign Minister Guyla Horn's televised announcement 25 years ago - September 10, 1989 - that at midnight Hungary would open its border with Austria and let East German refugees leave the country. "After the very first sentence I jumped up, took my camera, ran to my old Trabant and set off for the border," he recalled. The effect of Hungary's momentous decision was freedom for tens of thousands of East Germans who had been streaming into Hungary since May. At first they found refuge in the West German embassy, but as numbers grew, refugee camps were set up in Budapest and on the shores of Lake Balaton. The collapse of the Berlin Wall followed less than two months later. Communism was swept from Eastern Europe by the end of 1989. Another Hungarian photographer, Tamas Szigeti, who visited the abandoned refugee camp at Csilleberc the following day, recorded the haste in which people departed, leaving clothes, toys and even half-cooked dinners. No matter how uncertain the new life beckoning to them, the East Germans were clearly ready to leave fear and the Communist dictatorship behind forever.

Looking Back: When Hungary's Borders with Austria Opened for East Germans

How Climate Change Impacts Human DisplacementPlay video

How Climate Change Impacts Human Displacement

As representatives from 190 countries head to Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference, UNHCR's top international protection expert explains how global warming impacts human displacement and what he hopes to come from the meeting.
UNHCR Excom 2015: A World in CrisisPlay video

UNHCR Excom 2015: A World in Crisis

UNHCR's governing ExCom met in Geneva to review and advise on international protection and discuss a wide range of other issues with UNHCR and its intergovernmental and non-governmental partners.
ExCom: Global Protection ChallengesPlay video

ExCom: Global Protection Challenges

UNHCR's top protection official, Volker Türk, talks to UNHCR's Head of News Adrian Edwards about his policy speech to the refugee agency's Executive Committee and the need to strengthen international protection.