What Causes a Person to Become a Refugee


SEATTLE — Approximately 22.5 million of the 65.6 million people that are forcibly displaced worldwide are considered refugees. Of these refugees, 17.2 million are under the UNHCR mandate, and 5.3 million of them are Palestinian refugees registered by the UNRWA.

African nations host the most refugees, with 30 percent of the world’s refugees living somewhere on the continent. The Middle East hosts 26 percent of refugees. The refugee crisis that exists today is considered to be more extreme than any other refugee crisis in history.

Given the large number of refugees in the world, it is worth considering what causes a person to become a refugee. Nowadays, more emphasis is put on which countries the refugees are fleeing to as opposed to what it is that they are fleeing. These are a few contributors to the refugee crisis.


When it comes to what causes a person to become a refugee, persecution is typically the first situation that comes to mind. Persecution can come in many forms, including religious and racial persecution. Many different religious groups are persecuted across the globe, such as Muslims in Myanmar and Hindus in Pakistan. There are also many Christians that have been forced to become refugees because of the persecution they face in the Central African Republic.

In 2016, 46 percent of refugees that fled to the U.S. were Muslim and 44 percent were Christian. One of the largest refugee crises occurring right now is in Myanmar, where the Rohingya people are being persecuted. The Rohingya refugee crisis is considered the fastest growing refugee crisis.


War has contributed to the majority of history’s refugee crises. Currently, wars in Syria and Yemen are causing many people to become displaced. 6.3 million Syrians have been displaced internally, and five million have left the country altogether because of the war. In Yemen, there are two million internally displaced people.

The refugee crises in Yemen and Syria come on the heels of the crises in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ongoing wars and conflicts have resulted in several refugee crises in these countries, dating back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.


An estimated 20 million people from Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen are refugees due to hunger. In Africa, 17 million refugees are displaced because of a lack of access to food. In addition to the two million people in Yemen that are internally displaced, 17 million people in the country are considered to be food insecure.

Gender/Sexual Orientation

Similar to the issue of persecution, many people become refugees because of the severe discrimination they face due to their gender or sexual orientation. People in many countries are oftentimes victims of torture and murder solely because of their gender or sexual orientation.

Despite the fact gender and sexual orientation contribute to what causes a person to become a refugee, the UNHCR did not formally acknowledge this cause until 2012.

In May 2017, France accepted its first gay refugee after becoming aware of the persecution faced by LGBT people in Chechnya. It is said that the government of Chechnya tells its citizens that gay people do not exist while also imprisoning gay men in concentration camps. It is alleged that at least three men have died because of the brutal beatings and electrocutions they have been subjected to in these camps.

How to Help

Despite the severity of the current refugee crisis, there are ways to help. Many organizations, such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Save the Children, are working to help refugees affected by the crisis. The IRC helps resettle refugees in 26 U.S. cities. This organization also has a variety of programs aimed at fighting what causes a person to become a refugee and hopes to raise money to aid these programs. By donating to these organizations, people can make a difference in the refugee crisis.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr


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