Protracted Refugee Syndrome

The United Nations defines a refugee as any person who: owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country"[1].
A report by the Executive Committee of UNHCR states: “The consequences of having so many human beings in a static state include wasted lives, squandered resources … camps save lives in the emergency phase (but) as the years go by, they progressively waste these same lives. A refugee may be able to receive assistance, but is prevented from enjoying those rights that would enable him or her to become a productive member of a society. Protracted refugee situations also waste lives by perpetuating poverty: lack of income and assets; voicelessness and powerlessness in the institutions of state and society; and vulnerability to adverse shocks… The prolongation of refugees’ dependence on external assistance also squanders precious resources of host countries, donors and refugees. Limited funds and waning donor commitment only ensure that such situations are perpetuated, not solved.”[2]

After years of exile, these symptoms will ingrain themselves into each individual and, while the term Protracted Refugee Syndrome is not actually used in the documents of the UNHCR, many websites equate ‘Protracted refugee situations’ with ‘Protracted Refugee Syndrome’.

[1] United Nations: Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees - 2012
[2] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): Understanding the Challenge - 2004. See here.

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