Unit Title - Forced Migration in Developing Societies
In most developing societies, refugees are accepted as temporary guests. Refugee hood
regardless of its duration does not lead to naturalisation. Using different examples, state
the reasons and the impact of such policies on durable solutions.
“Tanzania has naturalised 162,000 refugees from Burundi in what
the ... UNHCR said ... was a historic move that other countries
should copy. A UNHCR spokeswoman said Tanzania's move was
the most generous naturalisation anywhere. Tanzania's act gives
citizenship to the bulk of the Burundians who fled to Tanzania in
Reuters (April, 2010)
More than sixty countries around the world host refugees. Many of those are developing
countries which are an important destination for asylum seekers. For example Pakistan is
currently1, and has since at least 2000 (see Table 1 below), hosted more refugees than any
other country in the world.
That table proves some quantification of the large role played by developing countries in
hosting refugees. It lists the top ten refugee-host countries in the world, based on data for
2000,2 according to three different metrics:
total refugee population
refugee population relative to host country population
refugee population relative to host country GDP
The first metric focuses on the absolute number of refugees hosted by a country. Given the
larger wealth of developed countries, it is surprising that they do not figure more prominently
among the top ten. The only developed countries present in the group are Germany and the
The second and third metrics seeks to provide some perspective on the burden carried by host
nations relative to the resources they have available.
See USCRI (no date)
Castles (2004) mentions that the table is based on data published in the UNHCR‟s Global Report 2000: Achievements
and Impact, at page 28. Although the data in Table 1 relates to 2000 the basic pattern identified in the table is likely to
remain representative of the current situation.
30 April, 2010 Page 1 of 20
The table makes clear that, regardless of the metric used, developing countries play the largest
role in hosting refugees. In particular, the third metric - refugee population relative to GDP -
clearly highlights that this burden by developing countries despite the small amount of wealth
they have to allocate to the problem.
Table 1: Top 10 Refugee Hosting Countries, 2000
TOTAL REFUGEE REFUGEES PER 1,000 REFUGEE POPULATION
POPULATION INHABITANTS RELATIVE TO GDP
No of Refugees per Refugees per
Country Refugees Country 1,000 Country US$ 1 million of
('000) inhabitants GDP
Pakistan 2,002 Armenia 79.7 Armenia 172.4
Iran 1,868 Guinea 58.5 Guinea 119.9
Germany 906 45.7 Tanzania 86.0
Tanzania 681 DR Congo 42.5 Zambia 74.9
USA 507 Djibouti 36.3 DR Congo 62.9
484 Iran 27.6 African 52.7
Guinea 433 Zambia 27.3 DR Congo 47.7
Sudan 401 Liberia 21.7 Uganda 35.6
DR Congo 333 Tanzania 20.3 Pakistan 31.3
China 294 Sweden 17.7 Ethiopia 30.1
Source: Castles (2004)
Displaced persons that have been officially recognised as refugees are in a favourable position
relative to other displaced persons, including asylum seekers. Refugees have a clear legal
status in their new country of residence. Additionally, they have a right to the assistance and
protection of the United Nation (UN). These two positives are not enjoyed by displaced
persons who have not been granted official refugee status.
However many legal, diplomatic and humanitarian professionals argue that refugee-hood is
best viewed as a staging post rather than an end-point. Refugees are frequently asked to live in
a judicial no-man‟s land for many years - sometimes decades - since they are not always
offered citizenship. Refugees often contribute fully in their newly adopted nation, paying
taxes and bearing significant other responsibilities, but are unable to enjoy the same rights and
benefits as those enjoyed by citizens.
This essay examines these issues using the example of the Iraqi refugees in Iran and
Burundian refugees in Tanzania. It begins by quickly defining naturalisation and noting that
governments all over the world have historically found it difficult to offer naturalisation to
30 April, 2010 Page 2 of 20
refugees en masse. Second, the essay defines the terms asylum seeker and refugee, carefully
distinguishing between the two. It then outlines the legal infrastructure that exists
internationally to assist and protect refugees. Finally, the essay closes with a summary and its
Naturalisation is the acquisition of citizenship (or nationality) of a country by somebody who
was not a citizen (or national) of that country when the individual was born.
Typically, in most nations, the key requirement for naturalisation is that the applicant be a
legal, full-time resident for a minimum period of time.3 Some countries also require that a
naturalized national renounce any other citizenship they may
The task of receiving, processing and hosting a large body of stateless people first began to
challenge nations during the twentieth century. So the collective experience is relatively
recent. Notable examples include the case of Russian, Armenian, Spanish and Jewish
refugees. Interestingly all these examples involve European based groups. None of those
episodes were handled particularly well by the host nations.
One common theme that emerges from those early episodes is that offers of naturalisation
were not easily volunteered by the host nation. That trend remains a feature of many refugee
situations today. Analysts suggest the reasons are mainly economic and the calculus is
commonly couched in terms of social cost-benefit analysis. Typically, refugees arrive
unexpectedly, in large numbers, are severely diseased or generally exhibit bad health and are
poorly educated. These negatives mean they will impose a significant and immediate cost on
the host community. On the other hand, the prospects are poor that the refugees will generate
sufficient benefits for the host community over their working life to compensate for those
3 For example in UK, for individuals not married to a British citizen, the naturalisation requirements are that the applicant
have been a legal resident in the UK for at least five years
have been outside of the UK no more than ninety days during the one-year period prior to filing the application.
have held an indefinite leave to remain (or equivalent) for twelve months prior to filing the application
intend to continue to live in the UK (or work overseas for a UK-based employer)
have knowledge of life in the UK
All applicants for naturalization must be of good character. Naturalisation is granted at the discretion of the Home Secretary
but is normally not refused if the above requirements are fulfilled.
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These economics are worsened, from the host nation‟s perspective, if it offers naturalisation to
refugees since citizenship can add several layers of additional cost in terms of welfare
payments alone, let alone infrastructure costs (housing, health, education and so on).
Accordingly, naturalisation tends to be offered slowly - at glacial speed.
The 1951 United Nations Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (in
short, the Refugee Convention) (Article 34) which provides that:
“The Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the
assimilation and naturalization of refugees. They shall in
particular make every effort to expedite naturalization
proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs
of such proceedings.”4
The actual experience of most refugees around the world seems to depart significantly from
A copy of this fundamental document is available at UN Refugee Agency (2007).
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2. Asylum Seekers and Refugees – A Significant Distinction
In popular parlance, the term refugee is commonly used loosely as a blanket reference to all
people who suffer forced (or involuntary) migration. Forced migration involves people who
have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere. Not all of these people are
recognised by the United Nations (UN) as refugees. For example, many forced migrants are
displaced within their own country of origin rather than a foreign country, as discussed further
in a separate section below. Also, the majority of forced migrants flee for reasons not
recognized by the UN refugee regime. In short, the number of people recognised legally by
the UN as refugees, albeit sadly large, is much smaller than the number implied by the media
and in popular discussions.
In contrast to its usage in ordinary everyday discourse, the term refugee the term refugee has a
very narrow and specific meaning within legal or diplomatic contexts. This precise
connotation dates back to international discussions finalised within the UN in 1951.
In terms of international diplomacy and immigration law, there is a clear distinction between
an asylum seeker and a refugee. This distinction is important for purposes of this essay.
An asylum seeker is someone who has fled their own home country and applied to the
government of another prospective host country for protection as a refugee. An asylum seeker
is not granted permission to live in the UK unless that person:
satisfies the definition of refugee provided in the Refugee Convention (Article 1), and
the UK has an obligation to extend that asylum seeker protection
The Refugee Convention regulates the legal status of refugees at the international level. It is a
basic document of international law. It was adopted on 28 July 1951 and entered into force on
22 April 1954. In practice, it is considered to set only minimum standards that may not always
According to the Refugee Convention (Article 1), a refugee is someone who is outside their
own country and cannot return due to a well-founded fear of persecution because of their:
30 April, 2010 Page 5 of 20
membership of a particular social group
The onus is on the asylum seeker to establish the relevant facts. This is often a frustrating
burden since the diminished economic condition of most asylum seekers leaves them in a very
handicapped position to document their persecution.
The origins of the Refugee Convention date back to 1951. As at 1 August 2007, one hundred
and forty-seven (virtually all) of the one hundred and ninety-one or so members of the United
Nations (UN) had signed the Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol.
Under the Refugee Convention, signatories are committed to assist and protect refugees and to
respect the principle of non-refoulement (that is, not to return them to a country where they
may be persecuted or, more generally, their human rights infringed). The UNHCR explains
this critical principle as follows:
“Certain provisions of the Convention are considered so
fundamental that no reservations may be made to them. These
include the definition of the term “refugee,” and the so-called
principle of non-refoulement, i.e. that no Contracting State shall
expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee, against his or her will, in
any manner whatsoever, to a territory where he or she fears
A nation‟s observance of this non-refoulement principle generally requires it to allow asylum
seekers to enter the country, assessing whether they constitute a genuine refugee and then
granting them permanent residence status.
Importantly, an asylum seeker has a lesser legal standing than a refugee and is not entitled to
the same level of legal protection and other benefits from the host country as compared to a
refugee. Officially recognized refugees are also in a superior position to asylum seekers
because they enjoy the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
See UN Refugee Agency (2007). United Nations Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, Introductory
Note, page 5.
The Office of the UNHCR was created by the UN General Assembly on 14 December 14, 1950. It is based in Geneva,
Switzerland. Its main responsibility is to protect the rights and welfare of refugees. It implements and manages international
initiatives to resolve refugee issues. It also has responsibilities for stateless people. It is a substantial organisation with a staff
of over 6,000 people in more than 110 countries and currently assists about thirty-four million people.
30 April, 2010 Page 6 of 20
An asylum seeker is any person claiming refugee status. If a country determines that an
asylum seeker meets the definition of a refugee, that country is obliged under the Refugee
Convention to provide that person with protection.7 The precise nature of that protection is not
defined by the Convention and varies from country to country according to national laws.
In short, an asylum seeker has a tenuous legal standing in the prospective host country until
the application by that asylum seeker has been decided. The asylum seeker lives in a legal
limbo, lacking clear standing, being essentially stateless. This ill-defined status makes the
formulation of social welfare policy in respect of asylum seekers that much more difficult.
Despite their much diminished standing, asylum seekers are given protection of basic human
rights under the Refugee Convention and other documents of international law.
In some cases, a person may not meet the Refugee Convention definition of a refugee, but may nevertheless face significant
human rights abuses (such as torture) if returned to the country of origin. In some countries, the main protection available to
such people is to contact the minister for immigration and request the minister exercise any personal discretion that may be
available to the minister under national immigration law to issue a visa allowing residency. If this discretion exists it is
generally non-compellable and non-reviewable and is therefore an inadequate safeguard to protect people from refoulement.
30 April, 2010 Page 7 of 20
3. International Refugees versus Internal Refugees
It is important to distinguish between international refugees and internal refugees.
As mentioned in Section 2, the Refugee Convention specifies a refugee as being “a person
residing outside his or her country of nationality” (emphasise added). According to this
definition, a refugee is necessarily an international refugee. For that reason the qualification of
international is commonly dropped and an international refugee is referred to simply as a
An internal refugee is a person that has suffered involuntarily displacement but remains
within his or her own country of nationality. Clearly therefore, internal refugees do not fall
within the meaning of refugee under the Refugee Convention. To avoid confusion with
refugees as recognised by this convention, internal refugees are best referred to as internally
displaced persons (IDPs).
The size of the IDP problem is significant. The number of IDPs around the world is estimated
to have been about 14 million in 1986 and 21 million as at the end of 2004.8 Unfortunately
however, the UN cannot extend protection to them.
There is no organisation directly tasked to assist, let alone protect, IDPs. Although they are
guaranteed certain basic rights under the Geneva Conventions as a matter of international
humanitarian law, these provisions are in practice weak since their observance and
enforcement is often the responsibility of authorities or individuals responsible for the
displacement and humanitarian hardship of IDPs in the first place.9
Accordingly, there is a very strong incentive for IDPs to migrate internationally and seek
protection from another country. The mere act of crossing their national border places IDP‟s
in a new context with more positive upside since they can immediately claim protection from
See FMO (no date). FMO explains that estimates of the number of IDPs are controversial due to inconsistent definitions as
well as methodological and practical problems in physically counting these affected persons.
See Anon (no date).
30 April, 2010 Page 8 of 20
4. Global Size of the Refugee Problem
According to the UNHCR, the global refugee population grew from 2.4 million in 1975 to
10.5 million in 1985 and 14.9 million in 1990. A peak of 18.2 million was reached in 1993
after the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. By early 2003, the
global refugee population had declined to 10.4 million. It has increased since then to around
16.0 million as at the end-2008, driven mainly by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By comparison, the broader category of people loosely referred to as refugees (including IDPs
and some returnees) peaked at 27.4 million in 1995. It decreased to 20.6 million in 2003 and
further to 11.5 million as at the end of 2004. 10
In addition to the above figures, the establishment of Israel and the associated displacement of
Palestinian Arabs have led to the world's longest-standing single largest on-going refugee
situation. As at 2004, it involved over 4.0 million refugees.11 However, these people do not
fall within the scope of the UNHCR for complex reasons which are beyond the scope of this
essay. These Palestinian refugees in the Middle East come under the mandate of the United
Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Refugees come from countries hit mainly by war, violence and other forms of chaos (such as
natural weather or geological related disasters). According to UNHCR figures for 2002, the
ten main places of origin were Afghanistan (with 2.5 million asylum seekers), Burundi
(574,000), Sudan (505,000), Angola (433,000), Somalia (429,000), Democratic Republic of
Congo (415,000), Iraq (401,000), Bosnia-Herzegovina (372,000), Vietnam (348,000) and
As the above figures suggest, the vast majority of refugees are in the world„s poorest
countries in Asia and Africa, most of the nations in these continents are commonly referred to
as developing countries.
See Castles (2004). Note that the 11.5 million figure for 2004 conflicts with the FMO estimate of 21 million for IDPs alone
See Castles (2004).
See Castles (2004).
30 April, 2010 Page 9 of 20
5. Displaced Iraqis
Iraqis have formed one of the single-largest groups of internationally displaced persons in the
world over the past few decades. There have been four major waves of forced migration out
of Iraq since the 1970s:
the 1970s deportation of Faili Kurds
the 1980s exodus stimulated by the Iraq-Iran war
the 1990s exodus following the 1991 Iraq War when the US invaded Iraq under Desert
Storm campaign and the violent reaction by Sadam Hussein‟s regime in response to
the subsequent popular uprisings
the recent exodus following the 2002 US invasion of Iraq by the USA under its Shock
and Awe campaign with many Iraqi‟s subsequently fleeing the country for fear of
persecution and human rights abuses
The UNHCR estimate is that at least four million Iraqis have been scattered throughout the
world by the above disruptions. The University of Oxford-based Forced Migration Online
(FMO) Group explains that this “figure does not refer ... (only) ... to refugees or asylum-
seekers but ... (also) ... comprises all Iraqis who have left their country for various reasons as
well”. As a result, an indeterminate portion of these four million people fall outside the
scope of this essay.
Only a small number of these displacees have been granted asylum as official refugees. By far
the majority, despite all the years that have past, continue to find themselves in a less
fortunate position. Those who have not yet achieved refugee status exist in their respective
asylum countries with significant uncertainty and diminished legal standing under a range of
unresolved predicaments including:
an uncompleted refugee-status determination processes
various protection or humanitarian arrangements
an undocumented position without any legal status whatever
The total number of Iraqis that have been granted official refugee status worldwide is
estimated by the UNHCR to have been, prior to the 2002 Iraq-USA conflict, about 400,000
persons.14 That number may be expected to be significantly higher today, but nowhere near
the four million Iraqi displacees worldwide. The proportion of displaced Iraqis that have to
See Chanaa (2007). Chanaa mentions that some analysts believe this estimate of four million persons to be a serious
underestimate of forced migration suffered by Iraqis.
See Channa (2007), section titled Iraqis in Exile www.forcedmigration.org/guides/fmo015
30 April, 2010 Page 10 of 20
date been granted official refugee status is likely to still be small today. This conclusion is
valid even though it is not entirely correct to compare the 400,000 figure with the four million
figure since the latter includes the impact of the 2002 conflict and the former does not. Even
allowing for that discrepancy, the gap between the two figures is too large to invalidate the
conclusion. It is surprising, and professional refugee advocates might say disappointing, of
the staggeringly high four million Iraqis that have been forced to migrate from their homeland
since the 1970s, and despite all the years that have gone by since the 1970s, only about
400,000 or more have been granted refugee status.
The fact that the status of the vast majority of these people has not yet been resolved after
many years is an example of the significant bureaucratic hurdles asylum seekers must
overcome in their effort to re-establish a normal life with some form of reasonable legal
standing, let alone full naturalisation.
The 400,000 Iraqis that have been granted refugee status have secured that standing from one
of more than 40 countries the main ones being it‟s near neighbours of Iran, Jordan, Saudi
Arabia and Syria. Smaller numbers of Iraqi refugees live in other nearby countries such as
Kuwait, Yemen, UAE and Lebanon.
The number of Iraqi refugees living in Western countries is relatively small, Europe being the
As highlighted by Table 1, Iran was the second largest host country for refugees in the world
during 2000 with 1.868 million refugees within its borders. It remains a similarly important
host nation today.
Iran has granted refugee status to about 204,000 of the above mentioned 400,000 Iraqi
refugees – slightly more than fifty percent.15 These Iraqis represent the second-largest refugee
community in Iran after Afghans. They comprise a range of ethnic and religious groups
Sunni Kurds from the northern Iraqi provinces who fled following the Anfal campaign
See Channa (2007), section titled Iraqis in Exile www.forcedmigration.org/guides/fmo015
30 April, 2010 Page 11 of 20
Shi'ites from Iraq‟s central and southern provinces who entered Iran during the Iraq-
Iran War and then following the 1991 and the 2002 invasions of Iraq by the USA
The favourable reception given by Iran to Iraqi refugees, across a broad range of ethnic
groups, might surprise many observers of Western politics and media since they mostly
characterise Iran as a dark empire ruled by a heartless regime.
Jordan has been a major destination for displaced Iraqis given its easy proximity, relatively
strong economy and stable government. However, only a small number of Iraqis have been
granted refugee status in that country. For example, only 5,000 refugees in Jordan are
registered with the UNHCR to be resettled into other countries. By comparison, a total of
about 300,000 Iraqi displacees are estimated to be living and working in Jordan, most of them
illegally. The overwhelming majority (about eighty percent) are Arab Shi'a from Iraq‟s
southern provinces with the rest from Baghdad.16
The 5,000 Iraqi refugees registered with the UNHCR in Jordan is small number relative to
both the 204,000 Iraqi refugees in Iran and the 300,000 Iraqi displacees in Jordan.
Saudi Arabia granted refugee status to about 17,000 Arab Shi'a Iraqis who fled during the
Iraq-Iran War and who were granted de-facto refugee status. A smaller number of 5,200
displacees remain in the Rafha camp, having originally fled Iraq following the 1991 Iraq-USA
Similar to the case of Jordan, both these 17,000 and 5,200 figures are small relative to the
total number of Iraqis requiring asylum as official refugees. Moreover, the displacees in Rahfa
camp are yet another example of asylum seekers being forced to live in an unsatisfactorily
protracted legal limbo.
Channa (2007) notes that, at the time of her writing, only 2,400 displaced Iraqis had been or
were in the process of being granted refugee status in Syria. By comparison, like Jordan, a
See Channa (2007), section titled Iraqis in Exile www.forcedmigration.org/guides/fmo015
30 April, 2010 Page 12 of 20
large number of Iraqi displacees lived and worked illegally in the country – some 60,000 to
The number of displaced Iraqis living in Western countries is small relative to the UNHCR
estimate of four million worldwide. For example, during the thirteen years from 1989 and the
end of 2001, only about 277,500 displaced Iraqis applied for asylum as refugees in Western
countries. The majority of these applications were in Europe.
Within Europe, Germany is the largest host (50,900 refugees, 10,000 asylum seekers)
followed by the Netherlands, the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Austria and Norway.
The rate of applications has increased since the 2002 Iraq-USA conflict. For example, during
the thirteen years from 1989 to 2001, the annual average number of applications for refugee
status by Iraqis in Europe was about 21,000 per year. This number more than doubled to
50,000 in 2002. Despite this increase, the number living in Europe is relatively small.
Nevertheless, Iraqis continue to form one of the biggest groups of asylum-seekers in Europe.
In summarising the plight of displaced Iraqis, including those in Middle East countries,
Channa (2007) comments that:
“Outside of Iran only a fraction of Iraqi refugees held official
refugee status. Assistance to those without such status does not
meet minimum international standards. In some cases, their
freedom of movement is severely restricted; they are vulnerable to
police harassment, beatings, sexual violence, extortion, and
Additionally they are often denied the right to work, forcing many displaced Iraqis to not to
declare their presence and hence remain in the country as an illegal alien.
Chanaa (2007) also notes that, following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on the USA, a
number of Western nations suspended formal resettlement programmes for Iraqi asylum
seekers and in other ways decreased the protection they made available to them.
“Consequently, many Iraqis have risked their lives and those of
their families by paying smugglers to help them reach the shores
of Western countries to seek asylum.”
30 April, 2010 Page 13 of 20
In other words, given the absence of a formal policy by some developed countries that
provides a formal basis for displaced Iraqis to travel there legally as genuine asylum seekers,
some of Iraqi asylum seekers have chosen the riskier option of travelling there surreptitiously
and facing the possibility that they will not be allowed entry once they arrive.
30 April, 2010 Page 14 of 20
6. Tanzania and its 1972 Burundian Refugees
As highlighted by Table 1, Tanzania was the fourth largest host country for refugees in the
world during 2000 with 0.681 million refugees within its borders. It remains a similarly
important host nation today.
Tanzania hosts the largest refugee population in Africa. It currently supports over 680,000
Burundian and Congolese refugees in camps located throughout its northwest border regions
of Kigoma and Kagera.
The majority of these people fled Burundi during its shockingly violent, ethnically-driven
civil war in the 1990s involving Hutu and Tutsi rebels.
However, about 162,000 of these Burundian refugees fled their country during a period of
national strife over thirty years ago in 1972. They are commonly referred to as the 1972
These 1972 Burundian refugees have lived in Tanzania for over thirty years as non-citizens,
bearing responsibilities and burdens commensurate with those of national citizens but without
their rights and privileges.
This highly unsatisfactory situation has been the subject of long discussion between the
Tanzanian government and the UNHCR. It widely known as Africa‟s most drawn-out refugee
sagas. Much effort has been directed over the years at resolving it.
A solution began to materialise during 2008. During that year, the plans were announced that
the country would work to invite the 1972 Burundian Refugees to apply for citizenship. They
would also retain the option of returning to Burundi.
Last month, on April 15, 2010, Tanzania formally began to move these refugees toward
naturalisation. Tanzania's Home Affairs Minister Lawrence Masha announced the first formal
notification list of Burundian refugees who are about to be granted citizenship. Similar
notifications were posted by immigration officials at settlements hosting Burundians refugees
throughout in the country.17
See UNHCR (2010).
30 April, 2010 Page 15 of 20
Since 2008, some Burundians have returned to their homeland but the majority have remained
in Tanzania to accept their new citizenship.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, travelled to Tanzania for the
occasion. He described the as a major milestone and an historic action in one of Africa's
longest-running refugee dramas. Guterres also urged other countries with long-staying refugee
populations to emulate Tanzania's unprecedented decision.18
6.1 Burundi – War Weary and Drought Ridden
Burundi is a tiny, land-locked central African nation that borders on Rwanda, Tanzania and
Lake Tanganyika. It is positioned in Africa‟s Great Lakes region. It has a population of about
seven million people. Its main ethnic groups are the Hutu (86 percent) and Tutsi (thirteen
percent). Although the Hutu represent the majority by number, the Tutsi minority was
politically dominant during the 1990s.
Burundi is extremely poor. Its GNP per capita as at 2005, based on World Bank calculations,
was a miniscule US$100.19
Burundi's first democratically elected president was assassinated in October 1993 after only
100 days in office. That death triggered widespread ethnic violence between the Hutu and the
The country suffered shocking ethnic violence throughout the 1990s that killed at least
300,000 people and displaced about one million.
A peace process began to slowly emerge in 2002. Since that early beginning, about one-half
million Burundians have crossed the border and returned to their homeland.
An internationally crafted power-sharing agreement between the Tutsi dominated government
and the Hutu rebels in 2003 began a peace process that led to an integrated defence force,
established a new constitution in 2005 and, importantly, produced a democratically successful
election that placed a Hutu dominated government in power during 2005.
See UNHCR (2010).
See Thomson Reuters Foundation (2008).
30 April, 2010 Page 16 of 20
The new government, led by President Pierre Nkurunziza, signed a South African-brokered
ceasefire with the country's last rebel group in September 2006. That truce seemingly
removed the last obstacle to ongoing peace. However, disappointingly, the rebels
subsequently withdrew from the truce over objections to parts of the agreement. Sporadic
violence occurred throughout 2007 and into 2008.20
In May 2008, the government and the rebels jointly declared an end to hostilities.
As at May 2008, about 338,000 Burundians lived as refugees in neighbouring countries, about
100,000 were displaced internally and a further 1.2 million were receiving food aid from a
variety of agencies.
Meanwhile, extreme poverty, lingering ethnic rivalry, decaying infrastructure and severe
drought provide significant challenges for political stability.
Drought in the north of the country has left hundreds of thousands of Burundians in need of
food aid and almost seventy percent of the country's seven million people are undernourished.
Although UN peacekeepers are close to pulling out of the country, Burundi is likely to be
extremely dependent on foreign aid for many years.
See CIA (no date).
30 April, 2010 Page 17 of 20
7. Summary and Conclusion
Developing countries have hosted very large numbers of refugees for many years. This partly
reflects their location. Many developing countries neighbour each other. If one suffers internal
turmoil and generates a large flow of displacees, the neighbour will likely receive some as
Some of the refugees hosted by developing countries are temporary guests, but a large number
remain as permanent guests. Only a small number of those permanent refugees are invited to
naturalise. And if that invitation ever arrives, it is often much delayed.
Many analysts believe this reluctance to extend naturalisation is driven by economics.
Absorbing a large flow of refugees can be a severe cost burden for developing countries since
they have little wealth. Offering naturalisation to refugees increases that burden since
citizenship generally implies the obligations of a country toward those people deepen
The case of many Burundian refugees in Tanzania is a clear example of a large refugee
population that has lived within a host country for more than three decades before being
offered naturalisation. It has been one of Africa‟s longest standing refugee problems. It was
not until April 2010 that Tanzania announced it had approved naturalisation for 162,000 of its
so-called 1972 Burundian refugees.
By contrast, the case of Iraqi refugees in Iran is somewhat happier. In 2000, Iran hosted 1.9
million refugees, mainly Afghans and Iraqis. Most of the Iraqi refugees have entered Iran
relatively recently – following the Iraq-USA conflicts in 1991 and 2002. As at 2007, Iran had
granted official refugee status to over 200,000 Iraqis this being the single largest
concentration of Iraqi refugees in any country in the world.
Lacking citizenship, refugees are forced to live in a form of legal limbo – a judicial no-man‟s
land in which they have no clear legal status. This can complicate day-to-day living in a
myriad of small ways, concerning everything from establishing a bank account, securing
credit and international travel. It also means that refugees are often denied the right to work
and any entitlement to welfare payments. It also means they are often denied the right to vote.
30 April, 2010 Page 18 of 20
30 April, 2010 Page 19 of 20
Castles, Stephen (2004), “Migration Fundamentals: Confronting the Realities of Forced
Migration”, Migration Information Source: Fresh Thought, Authoritative Data, Global
Reach, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford,
www.migrationinformation.org/feature/display.cfm?ID=222; accessed by author on 22 April
Chanaa, Jane (2007), “Iraq – Research Guide”, Forced Migration Online; a World of
Information on Human Displacement, Oxford, England, first published in July 2003 and
last updated in November 2007; www.forcedmigration.org/guides/fmo015; accessed by
author on 29 April 2010.
Central Intelligence Agency (no date), World Factbook, Washington DC, USA,
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