Working Paper

HLC Operational Practice Paper;2

Supporting Sustainable Refugee Return in Protracted Situations

Published on 1 December 2017

Every refugee statistic represents a life uprooted and on hold. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, estimates that by the end of 2016, a total of 22.5 million refugees had been forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations. Only 3 per cent of the global refugee population returned home in 2015, often in less than ideal conditions, with concerns that many of these returns may not be sustainable.

Significant factors in the low rates of return were insecurity and conflict in countries of origin, an absence of socioeconomic support in areas of return, and a lack of political will to resolve the root causes of displacement. Many of these refugees have been in exile for years.

Based on UNHCR’s definition (see box), 11.6 million refugees were in protracted refugee situations at the end of 2016, with 4.1 million of them in a situation lasting 20 years or more. The number of refugees in protracted situations increased in 2016 as many Syrian refugees have now been displaced for five years. Refugees need sustainable solutions so that they can live in dignity and peace.


Brigitte Rohwerder

Research Officer

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published by
Rohwerder, Brigitte


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