The most common reason people become refugees is persecution — which can take on many forms: religious, national, social, racial, or political. When it comes to religious refugees in the United States, the split between Christians and Muslims is quite even. According to Pew, 46% of refugees in 2016 who came to the US were Muslim and 44% Christian; 10% were other, including Hindus, Buddhists, and Jews. Around the world, religious refugees are everywhere: from Muslims persecuted in Myanmar to Christians in the Central African Republic to Hindus in Pakistan.
Most of history’s refugees have been the direct or indirect product of war. Currently, the largest group of refugees in the world are fleeing civil conflict in Syria, which has been raging since 2011 and has killed 400,000 Syrians and displaced 6.3 million internally. Another 5 million have left the country entirely.
But before Syria, refugees fled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in droves in the early 1980s, 90s and 2000s. Afghanistan, notably, had the largest number of refugees of any country in the world for more than two decades between 1981 and 2013, before being overtaken by Syria that year.
This past June, France became the first country to accept a gay Chechen refugee — a monumental decision that had global reverberations. The UNHCR updated its guidelines to include refugees for reasons of gender or sexual orientation in 2012.
It is widely documented that LGBTI individuals are the targets of killings, sexual and gender-based violence, physical attacks, torture, arbitrary detention, accusations of immoral or deviant behavior, denial of the rights to assembly, expression and information, and discrimination in employment, health and education in all regions around the world.
It’s estimated that 20 million people in four North African and Middle Eastern countries — Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen — are facing extreme drought, and many of these individuals are becoming refugees, forced from their homelands in search of stable food sources. There are about 17 million displaced persons across the African continent, the Guardian reports, and only a small proportion of them are reaching the shores of the European continent. Many end up in sprawling, informal refugee camps like the town of Monguno in northeastern Nigeria.
It’s estimated that in the next 83 years, a stunning 13 million coastal dwellers could be displaced by climate change, joining the teeming throngs of refugees and displaced people. Officially, climate change is not yet a valid reason for an asylum claim. In 2013, the first climate change refugee asylum case was shot down by the New Zealand High Court when a Kiribati man attempted to claim that status by law.
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