The rights, dignity and protection needs of refugees and displaced people are being undermined as the world faces a global displacement crisis. Islamic Relief has been responding to the needs of refugees and displaced people since 1984 and is campaigning on their behalf.

According to the latest figures from UNHCR, a record 79.5 million were displaced as of the end of 2019. 45.7 million are displaced within their own countries and the rest have sought refuge elsewhere.

The number of people displaced due to conflict and persecution is the highest it has ever been, while the climate emergency is also having a catastrophic impact on displacement. The vast majority of people forced to flee their homes are doing so in protracted situations of violence that the international community has been unable to address.

Islamic Relief is on the ground providing support

More than two thirds of all refugees worldwide come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. Islamic Relief has been working in conflict-affected regions around the world for decades, as well as in neighbouring countries to support refugees, displaced people and the communities hosting them.

In Syria we are one of the leading agencies providing healthcare and food to millions of displaced and war-affected people in the country’s embattled northwest. In South Sudan we are working in the rural border areas to support refugees and returnees as well as communities who have not been displaced, prioritising women’s access to basic services. In Afghanistan we have been supporting people displaced due to various crises over the years including violence, floods and drought, at one stage providing shelter to families who resorted to living in caves for protection.

We are currently supporting both Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Jordan with programmes in healthcare, education and livelihoods. Our work involves supporting women who are the main wage earners and carers of their families, ensuring they are able to meet their basic needs and send their children to school. In Lebanon our faith-sensitive child protection training with Muslim and Christian community leaders has helped ensure refugee children’s rights are met even in the midst of instability and crisis.

Islamic Relief is also delivering life-saving relief to more than two million people a month across Yemen, where double that number are internally displaced. In hard-to-reach areas in northern Mali we are one of the first agencies to assess and respond to internal displacement as a result of regular clashes over scare resources and inter-communal tensions. In Greece, we run an interfaith project with partners to help provide vulnerable refugees with legal assistance to claim their rights. In the USA and Canada we have worked in cooperation with local communities and authorities to build faith-sensitive welcome programmes for refugees resettled to these countries.

Campaigning for the rights of refugees and displaced people

Inspired by Islamic teachings on providing asylum to those fleeing persecution, Islamic Relief is not only responding to the needs of refugees and displaced people around the world but also campaigning on their behalf. In 2013, Islamic Relief was one of several faith-inspired organisations to work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on an inter-faith affirmation, pledging our commitment to ‘welcome the stranger.’

We have also been campaigning to help implement the UN’s Global Compact on Refugees, a historic agreement which includes specific recognition of the role of faith-based organisations and local faith communities in welcoming people forced to flee and ensuring their needs are met.

During the negotiation for the Global Compact and since it was adopted, Islamic Relief has been advocating for the following recommendations to be met as part of its implementation in core contexts in which we work:

  • Increased global funding for refugee protection and basic needs, with states, in particular wealthy countries, providing adequate funding for refugee emergencies and paying their fair share.
  • Governments around the world should enact legislation upholding refugee rights and enabling refugees to access services and employment.
  • States should commit to resettle larger numbers of refugees.
  • Combatting xenophobia wherever it occurs and raising global awareness of the legal obligations of states to uphold the rights of refugees.
  • Involve faith-based actors at local, national and international level in the joint planning and delivery of protection and assistance for refugees and support to host communities.

Policies and publications

Justice and Protection for Refugees: Building on the UN’s Global Compact

Islamic Relief has been responding to forced migration crises since our inception. We are now working to meet the needs of refugees, internally displaced people, asylum seekers and returnees in 26 countries. In this work, we have developed partnerships with numerous governments and key institutions, notably the United Nations; in 2013, Islamic Relief was listed as one of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) top ten international implementing partners.

This briefing seeks to encourage the international community to make more effective progress towards these goals and to ensure the Global Compact protects and enhances the rights of refugees around the world.

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The Rights of Forced Migrants in Islam

This paper provides an overview of the Islamic teachings related to the rights of people forced to leave their homes. Islam has a strong heritage of forced migrant protection, stemming from the original teachings of the Qur’an, as well as from historical examples taken from the lives of great Prophets. This heritage includes strong commands on the importance of seeking refuge if one is facing persecution, as well as on the duty to provide asylum to those who need it.

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Gender, Religion and Humanitarian Responses to Refugees

Gender Religion and Refugees.MRU PB-page-001This policy brief, edited by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh of UCL with contributions from Sharifa Abdulaziz (Islamic Relief Worldwide) and Helen Stawski (Islamic Relief UK), examines the intersection of gender, faith and refugees, aiming to deconstruct some of the assumptions that underlie humanitarian approaches to them.

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