According to figures from the UN Refugee Agency, 75% of refugees are fleeing from countries in the midst of armed conflict and humanitarian crises. The Syrian refugee crisis is the most publicised in the press today, but alongside that, people from countries including Eritrea, Iraq and Afghanistan are trying to escape conflict, repression and a life lived in fear. There are 19,500,000 refugees in the world today; here are just some of the countries they are travelling from, and the reasons why they are forced to leave.
Afghan refugee Sayed holds his son on dry land after crossing from Turkey to Greece in an inflatable boat:
Disputed presidential elections in Afghanistan in 2015 have led to a new period of uncertainty in the country. Human rights abuses, violence against women and torture of detainees remain serious problems, while attacks by the Taliban and other insurgent forces have led to an increase in civilian deaths. According to the UNHCR, 948,000 are internally displaced in the country, while some are attempting to travel to Europe.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Neema, who is 18 years old, sits on her bed with her baby in Dungu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
Government authorities in the country have sought to silence political leaders, students and others who have spoken out against proposed changes to Congo’s constitution along with other proposals that would allow President Joseph Kabila to stay in power for longer than the two consecutive terms permitted. Armed groups in eastern Congo have been responsible for numerous war crimes, while Congolese army soldiers have also been responsible for abuses against the civilian population they are supposed to be protecting.
Eritreans, and other nationalities, land in Sicily after being rescued from a boat departed from Libya:
The human rights situation in Eritrea, combined with an indefinite military conscription and a highly repressive regime run by President Isaias Afwerki, has forced thousands of Eritreans to flee their home and embark on a perilous journey through Sudan and Libya. Every month an estimated 5,000 people leave the small Horn of Africa country – which has had no independent press or functioning legislature since 2001. In 2014, Afwerki said: “If there is anyone who thinks there will be democracy or [a] multiparty system in this country… then that person can think of such things in another world.”
Iranian families gather at the border between Greece and Macedonia:
In 2014 Iran had the second highest number of executions in the world after China, while the country also remains one of the biggest jailers of journalists, bloggers and social media activists. Although the country elected a moderate candidate, Hassan Rouhani, to be president in 2013, there are still serious human rights issues that are forcing many to leave.
Bombings in her home country of Iraq have meant that Rasmiyya, 65, has not been able to reach the doctor for urgent treatment:
The Islamic State (ISIS) has committed numerous atrocities in Iraq, from suicide attacks to executions. Iraqi security forces and militias also continue to carry out kidnappings, massacres and executions, along with enforced disappearances and torture. The number of Iraqis seeking refuge elsewhere is therefore rising considerably – they represent approximately 7% of the refugees travelling to Europe, while thousands are also internally displaced.
Kaltouma, 22, and her young family bring the goods they saved from their village in Nigeria to their new shelter in a refugee camp near Baga Sola, Chad:
In April this year, opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari defeated incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan in the national presidential elections. The violence and corruption facing the country tempered optimism. The militant insurgent group Boko Haram killed civilians in the northeast, abducted girls, forcefully conscripted young men and boys and destroyed homes and schools. Deadly clashes continue to erupt elsewhere in the country.
Palestinian refugees rest in a makeshift shelter in Syria:
Youssef Karwashan/Afp/Getty Images
In the near seven decades since the Arab-Israeli war, the world’s most intractable conflict has continued to provoke opinion, as well as a sustained level of violence that has resulted in some five million registered Palestinian refugees currently under the direct protection of UNRWA. Nearly one third of the registered Palestinian refugees, more than 1.5 million individuals, live in 58 recognised Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The remaining two thirds live in and around the cities and towns of the host countries, and in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, often in the environs of official camps. With no sign of a lasting resolution, the Israeli-Palestine conflict remains the largest single contributor to the global refugee crisis.
Arley Usman Mohammed,15 years old, comes from Mogadishu. She lost her two legs at 14 when a mortar shell hit her house, killing her mother. She now lives in Sheder refugee camp in Ethiopia:
Long-running armed conflict in Somalia is leaving civilians in the country dead, wounded and displaced in large numbers. The Islamist armed group Al-Shabaab targets civilians in attacks in government-controlled areas, while restrictions on access to aid organisations have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis even further. Attacks, sexual violence and detention are extremely common.
These people left their villages in Sudan following aerial bombings and attacks from the Janjaweed:
Thousands of civilians in Sudan have been forced to flee their homes due to armed conflicts in several Sudanese states. These conflicts have caused civilian deaths, while sexual violence against women and girls is not uncommon. Authorities also censor the media and often detail political activists. Latest UNHCR estimates suggest that by the end of 2015, there could be up to 460,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the country, with 6.9 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The Sudanese represent around 4% of the refugees currently travelling to Europe.
Syrian families wait to be registered with Greek authorities before continuing on their journey towards central Europe:
The most publicised humanitarian crisis is taking place in Syria, where armed conflict has led to millions of internally displaced people, with many also seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Cluster munitions and barrel bombs have been used by the government and pro-government militias to attack heavily-populated areas, killing thousands of civilians. Government forces have arrested and tortured many people who have later died in detention. Alongside this, non-state armed groups opposing the government have also carried out kidnappings and attacks. Extremist groups such as ISIS, and Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, have carried out systematic and widespread abuses, leaving many with little option but to flee.
Data has been supplied by the UNHCR