Root Causes of Refugee Problem

Root Causes of Refugee Problem

The deplorable situation of refugees throughout the world is one of the most complicated problems facing the international community today. However, the problem of refugees is not new in the world. The international organizations and voluntary agencies have played significant roles to offer legal and physical protection and assistance to this unfortunate group of people. The following are considered to be some of the reasons for such movements of refugees

Massive Violation of Human Rights

Brutal and systemic violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms of citizens either by government or agencies supported by government which indulge in the oppression, suppression and persecution of persons on grounds of race, religion, gender, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion is the major root cause of mass exodus[1].

It is our contention that this indiscriminate oppression of basic human rights of persons is associated with despotic leadership which is now being nursed in Africa and other underdeveloped country where people are compelled to flee their countries to escape political intimidation, imprisonment and extermination.

Despite the available laws of nations providing for protection of human rights, there is still a massive violation of these rights. This puts question mark on the relevance of the laws and provisions of international instruments and casts a doubt as to the relevance of the existing institutional protection and the efficaciousness of the defence mechanism provided by these institutions.

Dilemma of a Fragile Modern State

One of the features of the modern state in Africa is its fragile nature. Most African States are born out of colonization during which the colonial masters did not take into consideration the ethnic differences before creating artificial boundaries. They therefore created ethnic inequalities by modernizing some regions and neglecting others through their parochial application of their own economic needs only.

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These inequalities are evident in the way and manner political, economic and administrative powers are shared in most of the developing countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Chad to mention but few. Efforts made to rebalance the situation through the introduction of provisions such as the federal character appears to be uphill task.

In some circumstances, as a result of such inequalities clusters of loyalties may emerge which can jeopardize the evolution of true nation. The implication of such a fragile state for regional security and stability over political and economic power may spill- over the neighboring countries since the metropolitan powers imposed the modern state on Africa, pre-colonial societies without due regard to ethnic, cultural and economic background.

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Africa has experienced countless predicaments from geographical unity versus balkanization of African state, ethnic unity versus colonial imposed political institutional diversity, all resulting in frequent regional conflicts culminating in large influx of refugee. Most of the political institutions in Africa suffer from this crisis of legitimacy which we consider as the logical consequences of lack of democracy.

Militarization and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Modern technology has brought about development of weapons of mass destruction. Violence has become the greatest factor instigating involuntary departure from lands. Western business and export practices directly support violations of human rights and consequently generate refugee flow by supplying weapons to the third world. The major portions of weapons with which wars are fought are exported to the 3rd world by the rich countries[2].

Most of the refugees arising from gulf war- Somalia-Ethiopia disputes, Iran-Iraq war, conflict in Chad to mention but few are in many ways the direct or indirect result of the first world policies, which may not aim at such results but which on the other hand cared little for the human rights standard  under their trading partners jurisdiction.

There is an evil aspect of this western export practice called militarization of the third world. By importing weapons tends to prevent and reverse the process of development itself. For instance, where Nigeria a developing country expends 30% of its revenue on military expenditure, it will likely increase its external debts which will adversely affects its trade balance.

It will also promote the rise to power of military men who are mainly interested in further militarization particularly those soldiers inherited from the colonial masters who left in their possession of keg, to powder when they lack the idea of how to put them to proper use[3].


[1] Human Rights, war and mass exodus, transnational perspective (1982) (11-14)

[2] Human rights and refugees –fact sheet No.20

[3] Peter Nobel “Blurred Vision in the Rich World and Violations of Human Rights – a Critical Assessment of the Human Rights of Refugees Linkage”  Bulletin on Human Rights 91/1, p.82

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