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Forced Migration

Forced Migration

Around the world, millions of people are forced to leave their homes due to threats from governments, gangs, terrorist groups, or environmental disasters. The tragedy and complexity of this experience are difficult to encapsulate in an explanation. However, it can help to understand the cause and effects in order to gain perspective on the difficulties of forced migration.

Definition of Forced Migration

Forced migration is the involuntary movement of people who fear harm or even death. These threats can be either conflict- or disaster-driven. Conflict-driven threats arise from violence, wars, and religious or ethnic persecution. Disaster-driven threats derive from natural causes such as droughts, famines, or natural disasters.

Forced Migration Syrians and Iraqi refugees arriving in Greece Definition of Forced Migration StudySmarterFig. 1 - Syrians and Iraqi refugees arriving in Greece. People who are forced to migrate may take dangerous routes and means out of desperation

People who have to migrate under these conditions are looking for safer conditions for survival. Forced migration can occur locally, regionally, or internationally. There are different statuses people can obtain depending on whether have crossed international borders or remained in the country experiencing conflict.

Causes of Forced Migration

There are many complex causes of forced migration. A range of interconnected economic, political, environmental, social, and cultural factors can create tragic situations and events that displace people. Despite the complexity, causes can be put in two categories:

Conflict-Driven Causes

Conflict-driven causes arise from human conflicts that can escalate to violence, war, or persecution based on religion or ethnicity. These conflicts can stem from political institutions or criminal organizations. For instance, cartels in Central America use kidnapping, physical violence, and murder to establish control and dominance. This has bred fear and concern for safety, leading to the displacement and forced migration of people in countries like Honduras.

Political conflicts such as wars between countries, civil wars, and coups can cause hazardous conditions for people. For instance, since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a massive refugee crisis has ensued in Europe. Transportation, shipping, and economic sectors have been targeted for bombing and shelling, creating hazardous conditions to live day-to-day or conduct business. Millions of Ukrainians have fled or are internally displaced within the country.

Disaster-Driven Causes

Disaster-driven causes arise from natural events such as droughts, famines, or natural disasters. For instance, major flooding can destroy homes and communities, forcing people to move away. In some cases, these events can also be human-made. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane, hit southeast Louisiana and Mississippi, flooding the majority of New Orleans for weeks.

Forced Migration Flooding after Hurricane Katrina Causes of Forced Migration StudySmarterFig. 2 - Flooding after Hurricane Katrina; failure of flood-control systems made New Orleans inhospitable after the hurricane

Later it was found that the US Army Corps of Engineers, which designed the flood-control systems, was responsible for the failed design. In addition, the local, regional, and federal governments failed in emergency management responses, with tens of thousands of displaced people as a result, particularly low-income minority residents.

Difference Between Voluntary and Forced Migration

The difference between voluntary and forced migration is that forced migration is migration compelled by violence, force, or threat to safety. Voluntary migration is based on the free will to choose where to live, usually for economic or educational opportunities.

Voluntary migration is caused by push and pull factors. A push factor is something that deters people away from a place such as a poor economy, political instability or lack of access to services. A pull factor is something that attracts people to a place such as good job opportunities or access to higher quality services.

See our explanation on Voluntary Migration to learn more!

Types of Forced Migration

With different types of forced migration, there are also different statuses people can have when they experience forced migration. These statuses depend on where someone is experiencing forced migration, whether they have crossed international borders, or their status level in the eyes of the countries they want to enter.

Slavery

Slavery is the forced capture, trade, and sale of people as property. Slaves cannot exercise free will, and residence and location are imposed by the enslaver. In the case of forced migration, chattel slavery involved the historical enslavement and transport of people and in many countries it was legal. Though slavery of this type is now outlawed everywhere, human trafficking still occurs. In fact, some 40 million people are enslaved worldwide through this process.

Slavery and human trafficking are types of forced migration where people don't have free will or choice in their movement. They are forced to move or remain in a place through coercion.

Human trafficking is the illegal transport, trade, and coercion of people in order to work or perform a service.

Refugees

Refugees are people who cross an international border to flee war, violence, conflict, or persecution. Refugees are unable or unwilling to return home due to fear for their safety and well-being. Though they are protected by international law, they must receive "refugee status" first.

Most countries require refugees to formally apply for asylum and each country has its own process for granting asylum depending on the severity of the conflict from which they are fleeing. Asylum seekers are explained in more detail below.

Forced Migration Refugee camp for Rwandans in Kimbumba after the Rwandan genocide Types of Forced Migration StudySmarterFig. 3 - Refugee camp for Rwandans in Kimbumba after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Asylum seekers may need to live in refugee camps until they receive refugee status

Recently, the term "climate refugees" has been applied to people forced to abandon their homes due to natural disasters. Usually, these natural disasters are occurring in areas that are experiencing extreme environmental changes and that lack resources and management to adapt.

Internally Displaced Persons

Internally displaced persons have fled their homes due to war, violence, conflict, or persecution but have still remained inside their native country and have not crossed an international border. The United Nations has designated these people as the most vulnerable, as they relocate to areas where humanitarian assistance can be difficult to deliver.1

Asylum Seekers

Asylum seekers are displaced people who have fled their homes due to war, violence, conflict, or persecution, crossed international border, and are applying for asylum, sanctuary-based protection granted by a political entity. A displaced person becomes an asylum seeker when they begin a formal application for asylum, and through that formal application, an asylum seeker may be legally recognized as a refugee in need of help. Depending on the country they have applied to, asylum seekers may be accepted or rejected as a refugee. In the cases where asylum seekers are rejected, they are regarded as illegally living in the country and could be deported back to their original countries.

For the APHG Exam, try to distinguish between the types based on status and whether have crossed an international border.

Effects of Forced Migration

The effects of forced migration range from major disruptions caused by a population decrease, to an influx of people into new places. Countries affected by a major conflict are likely to already be experiencing a population decrease due to war-related violence, but any post-war reconstruction could be even more difficult if most of the original residents are scattered throughout the world as refugees.

In the short term, countries receiving refugees or asylum seekers face the challenge of accommodating a large, unintegrated population. Countries that take in refugees are tasked with investing in the integration, education, and safety of the people as they settle in. Conflicts often arise when "nativist sentiment" of local people who resent the cultural, economic, and demographic changes refugees bring results in political tension and even violence.

Forced Migration Syrian students attending school in Lebanon Effects of Forced Migration StudySmarterFig. 4 - Syrian refugee students attending school in Lebanon; children are especially vulnerable to forced migration

Forced migration is psychologically and physically stressful and harmful to people. Aside from possible physical ailments such as wounds or diseases, people may have witnessed harm or death around them. Refugees are more likely to develop symptoms like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can cripple a person's ability to perform day-to-day activities or adjust to new places and situations.

Forced Migration Examples

There are several historical and modern-day examples of forced migration. Forced migration usually occurs due to historically complicated reasons, especially when it leads to major conflicts such as civil wars.

Syrian Civil War and Syrian Refugee Crisis

The Syrian Civil War began in the spring of 2011 as a civil uprising against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

This was part of a greater movement throughout the Arab world, termed Arab Spring, a series of civil uprisings and armed rebellions against governments involving issues ranging from corruption, democracy, and economic dissatisfaction. The Arab Spring led to changes in leadership, government structures, and policies in countries like Tunisia. However, Syria was plunged into civil war.

The Syrian Civil War included intervention from Iran, Turkey, Russia, the US, and other countries that both funded and armed groups involved in the conflict. The escalation of the war and heightened internal conflicts resulted in the majority of the Syrian population having to forcefully migrate. While many are internally displaced within Syria, millions more have sought refugee status and asylum in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, across Europe, and elsewhere.

The Syrian refugee crisis (otherwise known as the 2015 European migrant crisis) was a period of increased refugee claims in 2015, with over a million people crossing borders to get to Europe. Although the majority of people who made it were Syrians, there were also asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Iraq. The majority of migrants settled in Germany, with over a million refugee requests granted.

Climate Refugees

Many people in the world live along coasts and are at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods due to sea level rise. Bangladesh is considered the most vulnerable country to climate change effects as it experiences frequent and extreme flooding.2 Despite a small population and area, it has one of the highest displaced populations from natural disasters. For instance, many parts of Bangladeshi's Bhola Island are completely inundated due to sea level rise, displacing half a million people in the process.

Forced Migration - Key takeaways

  • Forced migration is the involuntary movement of people who fear harm or death.
  • Conflict-driven causes arise from human conflicts that can escalate to violence, war, or persecution based on religion or ethnicity.
  • Disaster-driven causes arise from natural events such as droughts, famines, or natural disasters.
  • Different types of people who experience forced migration include refugees, internally displaced persons, and asylum seekers.

References

  1. United Nations. "Internally Displaced People." The UN Refugee Agency.
  2. Huq, S. and Ayers, J. "Climate Change Impacts and Responses in Bangladesh." International Institute for Environment and Development. Jan. 2008.
  3. Fig. 1 Syrians and Iraqi refugees arriving in Greece (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20151030_Syrians_and_Iraq_refugees_arrive_at_Skala_Sykamias_Lesvos_Greece_2.jpg), by Ggia (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Ggia), licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
  4. Fig. 4 Syrian refugee students attending school in Lebanon (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Right_to_Education_-_Refugees.jpg), by DFID - UK Department for International Development (https://flickr.com/photos/dfid/), licensed by CC-BY-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

Frequently Asked Questions about Forced Migration

Forced migration is the involuntary movement of people who fear harm or death.

An example of forced migration is human trafficking, the illegal transport, trade, and coercion of people in order to work or perform a service. War can also cause forced migration; many Ukrainians have had to leave their homes due to the Russo-Ukrainian war.

The impacts of forced migration are the effects on the countries receiving refugees or asylum seekers and must accommodate them. There's also the psychological impact of forced migration or refugees themselves, who can develop depression and PTSD. 

The four types of forced migration are: slavery; refugees; internally displaced people; asylum seekers.

The difference between forced migration and refugees is that refugees are legally recognized for their forced migration. Although many people are forced to migrate, they don't all receive refugee status. 

Final Forced Migration Quiz

Question

What is forced migration?

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Answer

the involuntary movement of people under the fear of harm or death.

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Question

What kind of forced migration cause is this?


You're a journalist who has published an article criticizing the cartel. You are now a target. 

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Answer

Conflict-driven.

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Question

What kind of forced migration cause is this?


Sea-level rise has flooded your community and you have to abandon everything. The government does not assist you. 

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Answer

Conflict-driven.

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Slavery does not exist anymore.

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Answer

True.

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Refugees are...

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people who are fleeing war, violence, conflict or persecution, cross an international border, and have received refugee status.

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Internally displaced persons are...

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people who have fled their homes due to war, violence, conflict, or persecution but have not crossed an international border. 

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Asylum seekers are...

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displaced people who have fled their homes due to war, violence, conflict, or persecution, crossed international border, and are applying for refugee status.

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Question

What type of forced migration is this?


I'm Mexican; I'm fleeing cartel violence and am waiting on the Mexican side of the border to be able to enter the US.

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Answer

Internally displaced person.

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What type of forced migration is this?


I was granted asylum but my father was not. 

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Asylum seeker.

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What type of forced migration is this?


I applied for refugee status and was rejected. 

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Asylum seeker.

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How does an internally displaced person differ from a refugee?

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Both are types of forced migrants, but IDPs are displaced within their own countries while refugees have left to another country.

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Why can assisting IDPs sometimes be harder than assisting refugees?

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IDPs are often stuck in dangerous war zones, making it harder for aid workers to reach them, or are under a repressive government than is not willing to provide assistance to them.

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How might politics and discrimination lead to someone becoming an IDP?

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Government persecution throughout history has led to certain groups being forcibly removed or deciding the place they live is no longer a safe place for them.

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In what ways are IDPs' health threatened?

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IDPs may be stuck in an active war zone or face difficult conditions in temporary housing, putting strain on their physical health needs. Additionally, the mental trauma from relocating requires treatment and support.

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How are IDPs different from somebody that moves within a country looking for better jobs?

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IDPs are forced migrants, meaning they did not have a choice in leaving. Seeking better opportunities is a type of voluntary migration.

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Which natural disaster in the United States led to massive internal displacement in 2005?

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Hurricane Katrina

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How are the effects of internal displacement exacerbated by poverty?

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Those with few existing financial resources will find it much harder to cope with displacement; they have less access to financial savings to meet their basic needs or fully escape dangerous situations.

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True or False: All people fleeing the Syrian Civil War became refugees in other countries.

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False. While the Syrian Refugee Crisis has received a lot of news coverage, millions of people are internally displaced in Syria as well.

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How many enslaved people are there in the world at present?

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40 million.

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Which of the following factors contribute to the existence of slavery?

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Culture, economy, and politics.

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True or False: there are more slaves than ever in the world today, but a lower percentage of the total population than in the past.

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True: With a world population of around 8 billion, only 0.5% are enslaved. (Historically, slaves sometimes were the majority population in the countries they lived.)

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What percentage of modern-day slaves are children?

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25%.

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What are the correct dates, in order, of the following events: Haitian independence; Slavery Abolition Act; Emancipation Proclamation; Brazil outlaws slavery; Mauritania outlaws slavery. 

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1804; 1833; 1863; 1888; 1981.

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What is the current estimate value of the illicit global slave trade?

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$150 billion.

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When did slavery begin and when did it end?

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No one knows when slavery began, but it existed as of 5,000 years ago; it has never ended.

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Categories of slavery include:

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Chattel slavery, bonded labor, and forced labor.

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The US has how many slaves today?

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400,000.

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An asylum seeker is a type of:

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Forced migrant

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What differentiates an asylum seeker from a refugee?

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Once an asylum seeker is granted residency in another country, they are considered a refugee. Seeking asylum is the process of achieving that status.

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Which of the following are common reasons for seeking asylum?

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Political persecution

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The Rohingya are a persecuted group in what country?

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India

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Why isn't economic hardship always considered a valid reason for claiming asylum?

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Because economic hardship is not necessarily a reason to be forced from your home, not all countries recognize it as a reason to claim asylum. However, extreme poverty resulting from war or persecution is more often recognized.

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True or false: Seeking asylum is a step to becoming a refugee.

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True

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Which of the following is a benefit of being declared a refugee as opposed to an asylum seeker?

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Legal residency

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Which United Nations organization plays a big role in who is designated as refugees?

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UNHCR

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Which of the following circumstances might create refugees?

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Conflict.

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What are some countries many refugees have originated from in recent years?

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Myanmar.

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What are stateless people?

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People who are not citizens of any country.

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What are asylum seekers?

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Refugees who are seeking protection from another country.

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Are refugees forced or voluntary migrants?

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Forced Migrants.

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What might stateless people not be able to do due to a lack of citizenship?

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Go to school.

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Are most refugees in developed or developing countries?

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Developing.

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Approximately how many refugees are in the world?

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26.3 Million.

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What are some conflicts that have caused a large number of refugees?

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Answer

The Syrian Civil War.

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True or False: A resettled person is someone on a pathway to full residency in a country.

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Answer

True!

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