Samar (42) lives in the Netherlands. She is originally from Syria.
“It was in the middle of the night when we woke up by an enormous bang. My husband and I jumped out of bed and ran to our daughters. “We are going to die!”, they shouted. That night the missiles kept falling around us. That night we decided to flee.”
The two countries that most refugees have fled from are Afghanistan (2.56 million) and Syria (2.47 million). By mentioning these two countries we have also struck upon the main reason to flee: war.
The war in Afghanistan has been going on for more than ten years, the war in Syria for more than four years. And now there is also the conflict about the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which is not internationally recognised.

Religious conflicts are often the reason why people flee their country. Sometimes there are conflicts between Christians and Muslims (such as in Nigeria). Sudan, after a civil war, has been divided in the Islamic North-Sudan and the Christian South-Sudan. Sometimes there are conflicts between Islamic currents. The two largest groups are Sunnite and Shiite Muslims. Syria’s regime is supported by most Shiites, the opposition is mostly supported by Sunnites and Christians.

86% of all refugees is taken care of by developing countries.
Half of all refugees is still a child, younger than 18.



In the Netherlands, the government makes sure that its citizens are protected. Unfortunately there are also countries that do not protect their citizens properly. What is more: there are also citizens that are in danger because of their own governments.
If these people run the risk of being arrested, tortured or even murdered, they flee. There are thousands of people who have left their country, because they fear prosecution because of their race or skin colour, religion, political conviction, ethnicity, or because they belong to a certain population or a certain group. People may also be prosecuted because of their sexual preference.

We will give you several examples:
Criticizing the government is not tolerated in White Russia. A journalist who had written critical words about president Alexandr Loekasjenko was almost arrested, because of ‘unfounded fabrications’ that affected Loekasjenko’s ‘honour and dignity’. The journalist had to leave the country immediately.
In Iran several young men were hung, because they openly admitted that they were gay. Others managed to escape this fate by fleeing abroad.


Ethnic cleansing

Often people are individually prosecuted, but sometimes well prepared, carefully planned and executed prosecutions of an entire ethnic group or a people occur. An example was the civil war in former Yugoslavia of 1991-1999. In this war, Bosnian Muslims were chased away from Bosnia-Herzegovina by Serbs. Many of them fled, but many Bosnians were arrested and murdered too. Mass-murders for the sake of ethnicity are called ethnic cleansing.
In 1992 Fikret Alic (in the middle), a Bosnic Muslim, made the news. He was filmed and his extremely skinny body appeared in almost every news journal in Europe and America.
Many people compared his imprisonment with the concentration camps of the Nazi-era, and the world was horrified. Alic managed to escape the camp dressed as a woman. Nowadays he lives in Denmark

Natural disasters

People leave or are evacuated because of a natural disaster: an earthquake, a tsunami, a flood, an volcano outburst or a tropical storm.
Some disasters happen more gradually, such as the worldwide rising of the sea level or a dry period. Lowly situated islands, such as Kirbati and Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean are in danger of disappearing under water in time. If this were to happen, the inhabitants of these islands would have to leave. Others have to leave their homes because, for instance, the soil has become unsuitable for agriculture because of a long period of draught.
People who have to flee because of all these reasons, are called ecological refugees.

natuurramp vanuatu
The cyclone Pam caused on the islands of
Vanuatu in 2015 for a huge havoc

2) Give another example of ethnic cleansing.

3) Give two reasons why many ecological refugees find it easier to stay within the borders of their own country, or go back to their own country, than refugees who flee because of war or prosecution.