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Migration and Refugee Crisis Overview

Since the advance the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2014, the humanitarian situation has remained precarious.  More than 1.3 million Iraqis continue to be internally displaced following the fight to defeat ISIS.  Most of the approximately 240,000 Iraqi refugees live in Turkey, Syria, and Jordan, with smaller populations in Lebanon, Egypt, and Iran.  Iraq also hosts about 250,000 Syrian refugees, the vast majority of whom are living in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR).

What Are the Major Challenges in the Region?

Though more than 4.7 million Iraqis have returned to their homes since April 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration, returns have significantly slowed over the last year due to security concerns and local opposition, lack of basic services, and lack of employment in areas of return.

The Government of Iraq and local authorities are working with the UN and the international community to develop programs and structures to facilitate the safe, voluntary, and dignified return or local integration of IDPs.  International partners play an important role in building the government’s capacity to support voluntary returns and local integration while also providing direct assistance to refugees, IDPs, and returnees.  Priority efforts to support and facilitate durable solutions for IDPs include livelihoods; improving access to education; protection; mental health and psychosocial services; social cohesion and capacity building; legal assistance; and quick-impact revitalization projects.

Iraqi refugees face many of the same problems as internally displaced Iraqis.  The most pressing problem is ensuring that refugees receive adequate assistance during their displacement.  Obtaining the right to work and the regularization of their status in host countries are also significant barriers to refugee self-reliance.  Since the majority of Iraqis are prohibited from working in their country of displacement, they rely on host country services or international humanitarian assistance programs for survival. Host countries – particularly Jordan – have generously expanded the access of Iraqi refugees to basic health and education services, but the growing destitution of Iraqis, coupled with a large influx of Syrian refugees to neighboring countries, has increased the strain on those nations.

Violence in Syria has affected Iraqi refugees living there, as well as in other countries in the region.  Iraqi refugees in Syria are negatively impacted by the ongoing violence and the resulting surge in criminal activity, such as killings, kidnappings, robberies, threats, and harassment.  The conflict in Syria has also affected refugees’ movements and access to public services.  Access to Iraqi refugees by humanitarian organizations continues to be limited by security concerns and active conflict.

How Does PRM Help?

PRM supports assistance programs for Iraqi IDPs, returnees, and refugees,  through international organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).  Our assistance programs are designed to provide protection, including legal aid, basic humanitarian assistance, education, and support to rebuild livelihoods.

PRM assistance also helps to build the capacity of the Government of Iraq and local authorities to respond to emergent crises, provide civil documentation to IDPs and returnees, and to reintegrate returning Iraqis successfully.

Where Does PRM Work in the Region?

PRM has Refugee Coordinators in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey who oversee protection, humanitarian assistance, and U.S. resettlement of refugee populations on behalf of the U.S. government.

Northeast Asia

Northeast Asia Regional Overview

There are two main populations of concerns in Northeast Asia: North Korean and Uyghur asylum seekers and refugees.

North Korean asylum seekers and refugees:  The 2004 North Korean Human Rights Act (NKHRA), which was reauthorized in 2012, authorizes assistance to North Korean refugees.  The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration works closely with other bureaus in the Department to provide assistance to this population and to encourage host governments to improve their treatment of North Korean asylum seekers and refugees, including preventing their forcible return to North Korea.  PRM also supports the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as other organizations providing humanitarian assistance programs serving North Korean refugees in the Asia region.

Uyghur asylum seekers and refugees:  Chinese Uyghur asylum seekers and refugees face a complex set of issues that leaves them extremely vulnerable when they seek international protection in countries of first asylum.  The United States government works closely with international partners and host governments to protect Uyghurs from being forcibly returned to the country from which they fled.

Where Does PRM Work in the Region?

The Regional Refugee Coordinator team based in Bangkok, Thailand and the Refugee  Coordinator in Rangoon, Burma (September 2020) cover populations of concern in Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific.

South Asia

South Asia Regional Overview

PRM’s protection and assistance efforts focus on six primary populations of concern in South Asia (primarily in Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka):  Tibetans, Bhutanese, Sri Lankans, Burmese, urban refugees of various nationalities, and stateless individuals.  For information on PRM’s work in Bangladesh, please see the Southeast Asia website.

Tibetan refugees:  Since the Dalai Lama fled China in 1959,  Tibetans have left China seeking asylum in Nepal, India, Bhutan, and elsewhere throughout South Asia.  The numbers of Tibetans departing China has  decreased since Chinese authorities tightened security following 2008 protests among Tibetans in China.  PRM continues to work to ensure that Tibetan asylum seekers are not returned forcibly to China and to enhance protection for Tibetan refugees resident in Nepal and India.

Bhutanese refugees:  There are approximately 6,500 Bhutanese refugees residing in two camps in Eastern Nepal.  The United States government and other donors are urging the governments of Bhutan and Nepal to resume bilateral or trilateral discussions with UNHCR to allow interested Bhutanese refugees to pursue voluntary repatriation or continue efforts on local integration.

Sri Lankan refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs):  When the fighting concluded in May 2009, nearly 300,000 Sri Lankans fled their country or areas of origin, adding to the IDPs that were already in protracted displacement.  The U.S. government advocates for the return of privately-owned land seized by the military during the war, as well as needed infrastructure and services to allow IDPs to achieve durable solutions and re-establish their lives.

How Does PRM help?

PRM provides support to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other international organizations that are active in the region.

In addition, PRM provides funding to The Tibet Fund and other NGOs, which provides protection and assistance to Tibetan refugees.

Where Does PRM Work in the Region?

The Regional Refugee Coordinator teams based in Kathmandu, Nepal and Bangkok, Thailand, monitor the protection and assistance needs of the above-mentioned populations of concern.

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia Regional Overview

PRM supports humanitarian assistance and protection programs for vulnerable populations in more than ten different countries including Bangladesh, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.  In addition, PRM monitors issues pertaining to the protection and assistance needs of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless persons, vulnerable migrants, and other victims of conflict originating from Southeast Asia and displaced throughout East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia regions.

What Are the Major Challenges in the Region?

Currently, there are over three million refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs, and other persons of concern in the region.  Rohingya refugees from Burma comprise the largest group of persons of concern in the region, including stateless Rohingya in Burma and  more than 860,000 Rohingya refugees, who have taken refuge in Bangladesh.

How Does PRM Help?

The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration supports programs that provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to vulnerable, crisis-affected people in the region through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  PRM also provides funding to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to respond to humanitarian crises in the region.

Bangladesh:  PRM funds UNHCR, IOM, ICRC, UNICEF, other international organizations, and NGOs in Bangladesh to assist refugees and Bangladeshi host communities with protection, emergency shelter, healthcare and psychosocial support, food and nutritional assistance, access to safe drinking water, capacity building, education, and gender-based violence support.

Thailand:  PRM supports UNHCR, IOM, and NGOs in Thailand to provide water, health care, water, sanitation, and hygiene, mental health and psychosocial support, food and nutrition, shelter, gender-based violence prevention and response, legal assistance, mine risk education, and community-based rehabilitation to refugees and asylum seekers.  Through support to UNHCR and ICRC, PRM is also helping to create conditions in Burma that are conducive for voluntary, safe, dignified, and sustainable returns of Rohingya and other Burmese refugees from Thailand and Bangladesh.

Malaysia:  PRM supports UNHCR and NGO programs to assist urban refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia by providing physical and mental health care, and gender-based violence prevention and response.

Indonesia:  PRM supports UNHCR and NGO programs to assist refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia, including providing protection, assistance, and shelter for unaccompanied refugee minors.

Where Does PRM Work in the Region?

The Regional Refugee Coordinator team based in Bangkok, Thailand and Refugee Coordinator in Rangoon, Burma (beginning September 2020) cover populations of concern in Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific. The Regional Refugee and Humanitarian Coordinator team based in Dhaka, Bangladesh covers Rohingya refugees and other vulnerable populations in Bangladesh.  The Regional Refugee Assistant based in Kathmandu, Nepal covers other populations of concern in Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka.


Syria Crisis Overview

The United States and the international community are working to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to those affected by the brutal conflict in Syria.  Over 11 million Syrians are either internally displaced (IDPs) or have sought refuge in other countries, and even higher numbers are in need of international humanitarian assistance. Countries neighboring Syria that host the largest populations of Syrians refugees are Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.  Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the United States has provided life-saving humanitarian assistance for those forcibly displaced, ultimately saving lives and alleviating human suffering.  This assistance includes medical care, shelter, food, clean water, relief supplies, access to education, mental health and psychosocial services, and protection – including activities to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.  U.S. funding also helps mitigate the impact of the crisis on governments and communities throughout the region that are straining to cope after nine years of hosting  millions of refugees from Syria.

What Are the Major Challenges in the Region?

Millions of civilians in Syria remain displaced and are in need of international assistance after years of conflict.  Given access challenges, some areas have been reached only infrequently by humanitarian agencies, leaving millions with insufficient access to food, water, and healthcare.  Most Syrian refugees live in urban and non-camp settings and many experience difficulty securing civil documentation and meeting their basic needs after years of displacement.

How Does PRM Help?

U.S. assistance supports the activities of many international organizations including UNHCR, the World Food Program (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF),  the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Syria and neighboring countries.  Since 2012, the United States has provided more than $11.3 billion in humanitarian assistance for displaced and conflict-affected Syrians in Syria and the region. Of this, PRM has provided approximately half, including nearly $765M in FY 2019.

Examples of PRM assistance for forcibly displaced Syrians:

In Turkey, PRM funds Relief International (RI), who partners with local non-governmental organizations to provide a wide variety of programming, including small business support, physical therapy, prosthesis and orthosis devices, assistive devices, specialized mental health counseling for children and adults, and community health information sessions for both vulnerable Turkish host communities and refugees.

In Lebanon, PRM is the largest donor to UNICEF’s emergency water, sanitation and hygiene services to approximately 200,000 Syrian refugees living in informal tented settlements located throughout the country.  In addition to providing refugees with sufficient clean water for drinking and household use, this funding prevents the spread of disease and alleviates the environmental impact of informal settlements on hosting communities.

In Jordan, PRM is the largest donor to UNHCR’s efforts to register refugees, advocate on their behalf with the Jordanian government, provide specialized protection programs for particularly vulnerable refugees, assist in refugee basic assistance through multipurpose cash assistance, and administer camps with the Jordanian government.

In Syria, PRM supports international organizations to provide  shelter, safe drinking water, urgent medical care, emergency food assistance, humanitarian protection activities, and other urgent relief.

In Iraq, PRM supports international organizations providing protection, including mental health services, and gender-based violence prevention and response for Syrian refugees in Iraq.  Additionally, PRM provides support to NGOs to provide counselling and legal assistance as well as shelter rehabilitation for Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Where Does PRM Work in the Region?

PRM has Refugee Coordinators in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq who oversee protection, humanitarian assistance, and third-country resettlement of refugee populations on behalf of the U.S. government.


Migration and Refugee Crisis Overview

The U.S. government continues to monitor the humanitarian situation in Yemen closely and provide assistance to displaced persons and conflict victims, as well as vulnerable migrants and refugees living in Yemen. Most internally displaced Yemenis fled their homes as a result of the ongoing conflict between the Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG), supported by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition, and the Houthis. The United Nations has called the humanitarian situation in Yemen the worst in the world, and the country faces a severe risk of famine due to high levels of food insecurity, malnutrition, mortality, and disease outbreaks. The humanitarian situation is compounded by the unmitigated spread of COVID-19 leading to the near collapse of the healthcare system. International humanitarian organizations have limited access to some areas because of security concerns and other constraints. The U.S. government continues to encourage parties to the conflict to reach a long-term political solution.

What Are the major Challenges in the Region?

Conflict remains the biggest driver of humanitarian need in Yemen. Because of the conflict, Yemen’s fragile economy is on the brink of collapse. According to the UN nearly 80 percent of the Yemeni population, or about 24 million people, are estimated to be in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, including 14.3 million people in acute need of assistance.  Even though famine has not been declared, the risk of famine remains high among the most vulnerable communities as millions of people face severe food insecurity, malnutrition, and disease.  An estimated 3.6 million Yemenis are currently displaced within the country.

Lack of services, interrupted livelihoods, and the presence of mines and other unexploded ordnance remain significant challenges to the sustained, safe, and voluntary return of internally displaced persons.  In addition, extreme bureaucratic constraints, insecurity, and active conflict limit the ability of many humanitarian organizations to reach those in need.

How Does PRM Help?

PRM supports assistance programs for internally displaced and conflict-affected Yemenis through international organizations (IOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in addition to assisting refugees and migrants in Yemen. PRM’s primary IO partner in this endeavor is the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Our assistance programs are designed to provide protection, basic humanitarian assistance, shelter, health care, water and sanitation interventions, and camp coordination and camp management services.

Additionally, PRM advocates for political and economic solutions to address the underlying causes of Yemen’s man-made humanitarian crisis. To prevent the crisis from worsening, it remains critical that humanitarian and commercial supplies—including food, fuel, and medicine—are allowed to flow into Aden and the Red Sea ports and throughout Yemen freely and without delay. All parties to the conflict must avoid civilian targets and destruction or damage to vital civilian infrastructure—including hospitals, water systems, and markets—and facilitate the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Where Does PRM Work in the Region?

Regional Refugee and Humanitarian Coordinators based in Amman, Jordan help to cover PRM’s engagement with UNHCR in Yemen, as UNHCR’s Bureau for the Middle East and North Africa is based in Amman.  In addition, the Regional Refugee and Humanitarian Coordinator based in the Horn of Africa is responsible for monitoring the situation of Somali refugees and other African migrants in Yemen.  Program officers in Washington, DC monitor PRM-funded programs and humanitarian assistance in Yemen.

U.S. Department of State

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