Forced migration

Forced migration can result from a range of circumstances. It is usually the result of sudden, life-threatening events such as war or famine.

The recent Syrian crisis for example, has resulted in more than four and a half million registered refugees fleeing the country. In 2016 more than 50% of Syria’s population was displaced by this conflict.

While a steady flow of voluntary migrants usually brings benefits to the receiving country, the arrival of forced migrants (refugees and asylum seekers), in the short term at least, can be challenging to accomodate.

The map below shows examples of recent forced migration.

Map of the world

Palestinians to Jordan


The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimates that there are around five million Palestinian refugees living in various countries in the Middle East.

Palestinian's were displaced from their homes, or forced to flee persecution by Israel during the Arab-Israeli Wars of 1948 and 1967. In both wars, Israel occupied large areas of territory long lived on by Palestinians, displacing them and violating human rights and international law in the process.


More than 2 million registered Palestine refugees live in Jordan. Many have been integrated into Jordanian society, but some 370,000 are still living in refugee camps scattered around the country.

Although UNWRA is responsible for health and social services in the camps, the Jordanian government has to meet the cost of supplying water, electricity and roads.

Rwanda to Tanzania


In 1994 there was a bitter civil war in Rwanda between two ethnic groups, the majority Hutu and the minority Tutsi.

An estimated one million people were killed within a three month period. Subsequently many refugees, mainly Hutus, fled from Rwanda to neighbouring countries. Approximately two million went to Zaire and half a million to Tanzania.


Most of the refugees in Tanzania are found in refugee camps on the western borders of the country. The arrival of the refugees has had a substantial impact on the environment:

  • Deforestation - as refugees seek wood for fuel and for shelter.
  • Overgrazing - by the cattle, sheep and goats brought by the refugees.
  • Water shortage - resulting from the sudden increase in demand.
  • Water pollution - since no proper sanitation system was initially available.

The competition for water and firewood led to conflict between the refugees and the local population.