photograph © [2007] Jupiterimages Corporation

Sometimes there is a war or situation where a harsh government is imposing terrible conditions on groups of people in a country. In such circumstances basic human rights are often violated, putting people in danger of losing their lives or of being unfairly jailed. Sometimes there is a devastating natural disaster such as earthquake, floods or famine in a country and people have nowhere to live, no water or no food. In dire situations, people try to escape to safety in another country, taking just a few possessions. Sometimes the situation is so bad that families get separated in the confusion.

When refugees go to another country, they are kept together while government officials try to sort out who they are, who are genuine refugees, and try to reunite lost family members.

Sometimes the numbers of refugees are so huge that the countries to which they escape can't house them quickly or support them. In such cases, temporary accommodation is arranged, such as huge camps with tents or huts, until such time as more permanent arrangements can be made, or even until they can return to their own country when conditions improve or change. They cannot be forced to return.

A refugee village at the border of Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand
photograph © [2007] Jupiterimages Corporation

Life is hard in refugee camps, and in the overcrowded conditions diseases like cholera are common.
People often have to stay in the camps for a long time.

The United Nations and international care agencies help look after refugees.


A political refugee is someone who cannot stay in their own country because for various reasons their lives are in danger or they are in danger of being put in jail unjustly. It may be that there are unjust laws in their country and they are fighting an unfair government, or there is war and they are on the wrong side. A person in that situation may flee to another country and ask for political asylum, which is protection from arrest and danger or even death. Such a person is then called an asylum seeker. If the country they flee to finds that it is true they are in danger they will be given permission to stay and work in their new country.

June 29 each year is World Refugee Day.

There are many reasons people are forced to become refugees.

Click here to find out about some of the refugee situations currently happening in the world and about the organisations looking after them:

http://home.vicnet.net.au/~sail/refugees.htm

http://www.unicef.org/emerg/lebanon_39885.html

http://www.globaleducation.edna.edu.au/globaled/go/pid/182

http://www.oxfam.org.au/campaigns/refugees/

If you use any part of this in your own work, acknowledge the source in your bibliography like this:
Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. Refugees [online] www.kidcyber.com.au (2008)

Updated March 2009 ©kidcyber