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why people become refugees
refugees in the uk
life in a refugee camp
a true story

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cecile Today, most people can move from one country to another when they want to, but there are other people who move because they have to.

We call these people 'refugees'. They are people who are running away from their own country because they are afraid of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinions, or because they belong to a particular social group. jack

cecile jack harry


This picture shows a boy from Rwanda who fled to Tanzania to escape his war-torn country.
rwandan refugee

harry So it's a bit like when someone is bullied at school for looking different, or wearing different clothes.

Yes, except some refugees have to run for their lives. Many have travelled long distances in overcrowded boats or lorries, or by hiding in the cargo holds of aeroplanes. Some pay a great deal of money to try and escape, and some do not survive these difficult and dangerous journeys. jack


These people have fled from Kosovo, crossing mountains before they were picked up in a lorry in Northern Albania.
kosovan refugees
Betty Press/Panos Pictures

cecile When they arrive in another country and are allowed to stay, they become refugees. Under the rules of the United Nations, a refugee has the right to stay in the new country for as long as they need. Nearly all refugees hope to go home one day, but this is not always possible.


The people in the picture are some of the lucky ones. These Vietnamese families are returning home to Vietnam after spending years in refugee camps in Hong Kong.
vietnamese refugees
Liba Taylor/Panos Pictures.

In the world today, you can find refugees in every continent of the world except Antarctica. Drag your cursor across the world map to see how many refugees there are in the different continents.
world map
Some countries have more refugees than others. Have a look at the table to find out more: cecile

The Main Groups of Refugees (December 31st 1999)
Where they came from Main countries where they escaped to Number of people
Palestine Israel & the West Bank / Lebanon / Jordan / Syria 3,931,000
Afghanistan Iran / Pakistan / India 2,560,000
Iraq Iran / Syria / Saudi Arabia 568,000
Sierra Leone Guinea / Liberia / The Gambia 460,000
Somalia Ethiopia / Kenya / Yemen / Djibouti 425,000
Sudan Central African Republic / Chad / Uganda / The Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) / Ethiopia / Kenya 351,000
Angola Zambia / The Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) / Congo 340,000
Croatia Yugoslavia / Bosnia 340,000
Eritrea Sudan 320,000
Burundi Tanzania / The Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) / Rwanda 310,000
Bosnia Yugoslavia / Croatia 300,000
Vietnam China / France / Sweden / Switzerland 292,000

Source: UNHCR website,
and figures from the US Committee for Refugees website,


jack Look at the table, and see if you can work out the answers to these questions: To help you answer questions 2 and 3, you might need an atlas.

1. From which country are there the most refugees?

2. Of the main countries that these refugees escape to, which of these countries are European countries?

3. Of the main countries that these refugees escape to, which of these countries are African countries?


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cecile To find out more about why people become refugees, click on the button below to take you to a new page.
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