Millions spend decades as refugees

When a temporary crisis becomes a life in exile

Migrants from Africa and Middle East braving the deadly waters of the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe have made for heartbreaking headlines in recent years. But a different element of the global refugee crisis has been growing for decades, far from the media spotlight.

More than 13 million people are trapped in the limbo defined by the United Nations as “Protracted Refugee Situations”— where 25,000 or more refugees have lived for five or more years in an asylum country. They can be found in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, and South America, in host countries where a refugee’s temporary stay has turned into a prolonged state of crisis.

According to the United Nations’ Refugee Agency, some 68.5 million people are displaced worldwide, including 25.4 million people who have left their home countries as refugees. Nearly nine of out ten of them now live in developing countries where education, health, and employment resources are already under pressure.

Over two million Afghan refugees are now divided between Iran and Pakistan, for example, a cumulative sum first stemming from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Egypt has the longest protracted refugee situation of all, hosting refugees from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades. For those refugees, and for so many others, their journey has no clear end in sight.

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