Protracted Refugees

  1. definition
  2. examples and/or illustrations
  3. other useful sources
  4. bibliography
  5. Other related terms


Protracted: “Lasting for a long time or longer than expected or usual” – Oxford Dictionary

Refugee as Defined by the UN 1951 Convention: “A refugee is a person who has left his or her country and cannot return because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group.” (UNHCR 2014).

When putting the two words together a protracted refugee can then be defined as: an individual who moves involuntarily from their country to escape persecution, war or violence lasting longer than expected without sign of resolution.

Protracted Displacement Situations: Situations that have moved past the initial emergency stage and continue to exist without solutions for peace or return home in the future (Loescher, Milner, 2009).

Protracted refugee situation as defined by UNHCR: “one in which refugees find themselves in a long-lasting and intractable state of limbo. Their lives may not be at risk, but their basic rights and essential economic, social and psychological needs remain unfulfilled after years in exile. A refugee in this situation is unable to break free from enforced reliance on external assistance” (UNHCR 2014). UNHCR defines protracted refugee populations as persons who have lived in exile for the duration of five years or more without sign of resolution (UNHCR 2014).

Based on these two definitions of protracted situations and refugees a protracted refugee can be defined as: an individual who lives in a environment where a crisis has moved past the initial state of emergency focused on life-saving assistance and protection; to a phase of stagnancy as there is little likelihood for return home or durable solutions for peace in the future. Protracted refugees experience stringent restrictions on their basic rights and are often not granted citizenship in the country of asylum. Although their lives may not be directly at risk they lack essential social, economic and psychological needs and suffer from poverty and lack of resources; education, adequate healthcare and housing, job opportunities and ownership (UNHCR 106). Protracted refugees are typically concentrated in specific geographic environments which vary consisting of rural settlements, urban centers and camps, many of which are in unstable regions (UNHCR 106). Approximately two-thirds of the world’s refugees today are protracted refugees (Loescher, Milner, 2009).

Examples and/or Illustrations

  1. 2013 in review; UNHCR Visual Fact Sheet of 51.2 million individuals who were forcibly displaced worldwide. http://www.unhcr.org/5399a14f9.html (Page 2)
  2. Protracted Refugee Situations; Refugee Movements Map. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/157337.pdf
  3. Life in The Shadows – Palestinians in Lebanon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF-6UoznHvw
  4. The Syrian Spillover: Lebanon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF-6UoznHvw

Other Useful Sources

UNHCR – Protracted Refugee Situations: The Search for Practical Solutions http://www.unhcr.org/4444afcb0.pdf

War’s Human Costs: UNHCR Global Trends 2013


University of Oxford Refugees Studies Center


Crisp, Jeff. “No Solutions in Sight: The Problem of Protracted Refugee Situations in Africa.” Refugee Survey Quarterly 22.4 (2003): 114-50. ProQuest. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.



Definition of Protracted in English. (2014, January 1). Retrieved October 28, 2014, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/protracted

Loescher, G., & Milner, J. (2009). Protracted Refugee Situations. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from http://www.prsproject.org/protracted-refugee-situations/

Protracted Refugee Situations. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from http://www.state.gov/j/prm/policyissues/issues/protracted/

Protracted refugee situations: The search for practical solutions. (2006, April 20). Retrieved October 28, 2014, from http://www.unhcr.org/4a4dc1a89.html

“Refugees.” UNHCR. United Nations High Commission for Refugees, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c125.html>.

UNHCR Global Trends 2013: War’s Human Cost. (2014, June 20). Retrieved October 28, 2014, from http://reliefweb.int/report/world/unhcr-global-trends-2013-wars-human-cost

Other related terms

  • Protracted Refugee Situation
  • Refugee Camp
  • Resettlement