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UNHCR | Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration | Globalization of Protracted Refugee Situations


Over the past decade, UNHCR has devoted considerable attention to the issue of protracted refugee situations. UNHCR's Policy Development and Evaluation Service (PDES) has taken a lead role in better understanding the dynamics and implications of prolonged displacement. Studies commissioned by PDES contributed to the development of a working definition of PRS, and to a better understanding of the causes, consequences, while opening-up avenues towards solutions.

This page provides a compilation of the papers that UNHCR has produced on this issue since 1999, including official Executive Committee documents, evaluations, research studies and discussion papers.

The Transitional Solutions Initiative (TSI) is a programme that UNDP and UNHCR initiated in 2010 in close cooperation with the World Bank Global Program on Forced Displacement (GPFD) and bilateral donor governments, which built on a series of initiatives and processes developed since the 1980s, intended to put displacement and the needs of the displaced on the developmental agenda.

The TSI aims to put displacement at the core of recovery and development strategies through advocacy, coordination, capacity building and resource mobilisation to ensure sustainability of interventions and ultimately reduce the risk of social conflict and insecurity. It focuses on strengthening partnerships between humanitarian and development, bilateral and multilateral actors to support local processes and national ownership in finding sustainable solutions for displaced persons and local community members.

In Eastern Sudan, through the consolidation of the partnership between UNHCR, bilateral donors, the World Bank, UNDP and the government, the TSI initiative is adopting a phased, area-based approach to strengthen the self-reliance abilities of both refugees and their host communities. This has led to the inclusion of the East Sudan displacement issues in the Sudan Poverty Reduction Strategy.

In Colombia, the initiative is focused on internally displaced people rather than refugees and the interventions will be centered on three different axes: improving quality of life (access to land, housing and basic services), strengthening the capacities of institutions and communities, and enhancing the protection and rights of those victimized by the conflict.  

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (U.S. Department of State)

Ameliorating Protracted Refugee Situations is a U.S. foreign policy goal and a humanitarian priority. The U.S. Government supports international programs that address PRS in every part of the world.

To accelerate progress, the Department of State has led the development of strategies to strengthen U.S. diplomatic, assistance, and resettlement efforts in six Protracted Refugee Situations. These particular situations were selected based on the extent of deprivation among the populations, and on the U.S. government’s capacity to make a positive difference. In most situations, making a positive difference means achieving durable solutions. Where solutions remain elusive, it means enhancing the protection and living conditions of refugees where they reside. The six focus situations are: Afghans in Pakistan; Bhutanese in Nepal; Burmese in Thailand; Croatian and Bosnian Citizens in Serbia Liberians in West Africa and Somalis in Kenya.

The focus on these six particular Protracted Refugee Situations does not diminish ongoing U.S. support to other populations around the world, such as Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, or Colombian refugees in the Andes region. The United States remain engaged in the other situations highlighted by the High Commissioner’s Initiative, including the Rohinyga in Bangladesh, Eritreans in Eastern Sudan, and Burundi in Tanzania. Like the High Commissioner’s Initiative, the U.S. Government’s focus on certain populations does not diminish its support for other refugee populations. Instead, having a public diplomatic strategy will help elevate the humanitarian agenda within U.S. policy and increase cooperation with UNHCR, other donors, and host governments.

Globalization of Protracted Refugee Situations (GPRS) Project

A research project led by Wenona Giles (anthropologist) and Jennifer Hyndman (geographer), both at the Centre for Refugee Studies, York University and funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The main objective of the research is to explore and define the extent of long-term refugee situations internationally and at multiple scales, from that of the refugee camp to the geopolitics of international relations. The specific geographical sites for the original research are Kenya, where in 2012 the Dadaab camps host almost half a million Somali refugees, and Nairobi which houses thousands more, as well as Tehran and Zahedan in Iran where Afghan refugees work and live in urban, suburban, and exurban spaces. Additional research was conducted in Geneva, London and Ottawa where we interviewed key informants in humanitarian and refugee-serving non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organizations, including UN agencies. Finally, in Toronto we interviewed newcomers from protracted refugee contexts in Afghanistan and Somalia who now live in Canada. Both countries have produced what are characterised as long term refugee situations, and many resettled refugees to Canada have come from these countries. A book on this research is forthcoming in 2013. The project has morphed into another project on the delivery of higher education to refugees in camps:

The following publications came out of the research already (the list below is not exaustive; contact the project leaders for further information about conference presentations)