The Nature of the Crisis and the Academic Response

  • Vaughan Robinson


The nature of the world refugee crisis has changed significantly over the period since the Second World War. The number of people labelled as refugees has grown hugely, their spatial distribution has been metamorphosed and the potential causes of forced migrations have had to be expanded to include environmental change occasioned by man’s direct and indirect interference with the ecosystem. When Simpson was writing his refugee survey in 1939 he was describing groups that numbered tens of thousands of people. The UN, in framing its Convention definition of a refugee in 1951, was clearly thinking of refugees as a European issue contingent upon the political and economic dislocation of the Second World War. Forty years on, there are so many refugees in the world that no two experts will agree on the total number. Estimates vary between 15 million and 22 million. As Figure 1.1 demonstrates, the distribution of these people has also been transformed. Africa and South East Asia are now the major source areas for refugees, and Western Europe is now, despite the recent upheavals, a relatively insignificant generator of refugee flows, in global terms.


Migration Europe Transportation Mese Briton 


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Copyright information

© Refugee Studies Programme 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vaughan Robinson

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