The Greater Balkans 

The Greater Balkans Regional Overview

The break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s triggered the displacement of nearly 3 million people; while most have returned home or resettled elsewhere, the Western Balkans still hosts more than 350,000 registered displaced persons, many of whom remain vulnerable.    Additionally, hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and migrants have entered or passed through the Balkans since 2015, including 121,000 refugees and migrants currently hosted by Greece, bringing to light challenges to regional border management and provision of effective protection. 

What are the major challenges in the region?

Hundreds of thousands of those uprooted as a result of the wars of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s   remain displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance.  Access to housing, livelihoods, and basic services, continues to be difficult for people across the Western Balkans. 

To compound these challenges, unresolved conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan prompted the movement of nearly 1.7 million refugees and migrants through the Balkans since 2015.  While overall arrivals to Europe decreased in 2019, arrivals via the Eastern Mediterranean and Greece increased dramatically in 2019, leading to dire humanitarian conditions at overcrowded Reception and Identification Centers in Greece as well as an acute shortage of accommodations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  As the number of arrivals in Europe has stabilized, European nations face the challenge of integrating newly arrived populations.  They will need to ensure these new arrivals have adequate access to asylum processes, information about available services, dignified and safe reception and accommodation sites, access to work and education, as well as programs that target the specific needs of the vulnerable separated and unaccompanied minors. 

How does PRM help?

PRM in the Balkans today provides life-saving assistance where necessary while working to integrate humanitarian assistance programs into economic development strategies supported by local, national, and international actors.  We also advocate for integration strategies and full access to rights and services for vulnerable displaced persons, and we support international partners, the European Union, and host governments to humanely and effectively address regional irregular migration challenges. 

Along with the European Union and over 10 other donors, we help provide durable housing solutions for refugees through the Regional Housing Program, a joint initiative by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia that helps resolve the protracted displacement of refugees and displaced persons following the 1991-1995 conflicts on the territory of former Yugoslavia, including internally displaced persons in Montenegro from 1999.  Our funding for this program and complementary assistance helps provide housing, livelihoods, legal assistance, and capacity-building for host governments as they work to close the chapter on displacement in the region. 

In addition to our support to the Regional Housing Program, we provide funding and support to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), and the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) to meet the needs of refugee and displaced persons.  We also support efforts to resolve missing persons cases remaining from the conflicts of the 1990s. 

PRM also works to raise the visibility of statelessness in the region and encourages governments to develop policies to meet humanitarian responsibilities on protection and statelessness. 

We support UNICEF to increase government capacity to respond to, and support survivors of, gender-based violence in Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia. 

Where does PRM work in the region?

Our regional refugee office is located at U.S. Embassy, Belgrade and represents PRM in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

South Caucasus 

South Caucasus Displacement Overview

Unresolved conflicts in the South Caucasus region, which includes Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, have left nearly 1 million people in need of durable solutions.  Ethnic Georgian returnees in the Russian-occupied Georgian territory of Abkhazia live in tenuous circumstances with few economic opportunities or political rights, limited freedom of movement, and poor access to health care and markets and are also at risk of secondary displacement.  In Armenia, refugees encounter difficulties accessing employment as well as language and cultural barriers that inhibit their self-reliance and integration prospects.  In Azerbaijan, access to asylum and protection remains limited, restricting access to employment, education, and other critical services. 

How Does PRM Help?

PRM provides humanitarian assistance in the Caucasus and other areas of Europe, through international humanitarian organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM).  In addition, PRM supports NGO programs to help refugees and IDPs in the Caucasus.  In Fiscal Year 2019, PRM contributed $10.5 million to partners and programs in the South Caucasus.  PRM funding promotes self-reliance through community-based livelihood activities, improves asylum systems, and advocates for improvements to and implementation of international and national legal frameworks and policies.  PRM further supports partner efforts to clarify the fate of missing persons and respond to the emergency needs of people affected by conflict. 

Where Does PRM Work in the Region?

PRM’s Regional Refugee Coordinator, relocating from the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv in fall 2020, covers the Bureau’s issues in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.  The Refugee Coordinator works closely with PRM program officers in Washington, DC who manage programs in the region. 

Ukraine 

Ukraine Crisis Overview

After more than six years of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, more than 1.4 million people have been registered by the government as internally displaced persons (IDPs) and about 3.4 million people are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance.  Needs are most acute along the line of contact, where there are daily risks of injury due to ongoing clashes and landmines, frequent disruptions to water supplies and electricity, restricted freedom of movement, lack of access to documentation, services, and income, and rapidly increasing prices for basic goods. 

What Are the Major Challenges in Ukraine?

Persistent ceasefire violations and damage to critical infrastructure continue to threaten civilians and those seeking to help them in eastern Ukraine.  Restrictions on movement of people and goods, including humanitarian aid, across and beyond the line of contact exacerbate humanitarian needs.  Protection concerns exist, even for those residing in government-controlled territories.  Humanitarian partners work to help IDPs and conflict-affected populations access benefits; protect survivors of gender-based violence; support families caring for unrelated children; and provide legal assistance to address housing rights violations. 

How Does PRM Help?

Between Fiscal Years (FY) 2014 and FY 2019, PRM has contributed nearly $143 million towards urgent humanitarian needs in Ukraine, including over $28 million in FY 2019.  PRM funds international humanitarian organizations to support the provision of emergency shelter and household items, winterization support, cash assistance, livelihoods interventions, rehabilitation of essential infrastructure, legal protection, community mobilization, and social cohesion.  We also support a range of activities designed to mobilize and empower communities to organize emergency response, protect themselves, and identify solutions. 

Where does PRM work in the region?

The Bureau has established a Regional Refugee Coordinator position at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, responsible for monitoring and reporting on PRM humanitarian assistance and policy and program issues regarding the situation in Ukraine, as well as in other Eurasian countries. The Refugee Coordinator works closely with PRM program officers in Washington, DC who manage programs in the region. 

Iraq 

Migration and Refugee Crisis Overview

Since the advance the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2014, the humanitarian situation has remained precarious.  More than 1.3 million Iraqis continue to be internally displaced following the fight to defeat ISIS.  Most of the approximately 240,000 Iraqi refugees live in Turkey, Syria, and Jordan, with smaller populations in Lebanon, Egypt, and Iran.  Iraq also hosts about 250,000 Syrian refugees, the vast majority of whom are living in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). 

What Are the Major Challenges in the Region?

Though more than 4.7 million Iraqis have returned to their homes since April 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration, returns have significantly slowed over the last year due to security concerns and local opposition, lack of basic services, and lack of employment in areas of return. 

The Government of Iraq and local authorities are working with the UN and the international community to develop programs and structures to facilitate the safe, voluntary, and dignified return or local integration of IDPs.  International partners play an important role in building the government’s capacity to support voluntary returns and local integration while also providing direct assistance to refugees, IDPs, and returnees.  Priority efforts to support and facilitate durable solutions for IDPs include livelihoods; improving access to education; protection; mental health and psychosocial services; social cohesion and capacity building; legal assistance; and quick-impact revitalization projects. 

Iraqi refugees face many of the same problems as internally displaced Iraqis.  The most pressing problem is ensuring that refugees receive adequate assistance during their displacement.  Obtaining the right to work and the regularization of their status in host countries are also significant barriers to refugee self-reliance.  Since the majority of Iraqis are prohibited from working in their country of displacement, they rely on host country services or international humanitarian assistance programs for survival. Host countries – particularly Jordan – have generously expanded the access of Iraqi refugees to basic health and education services, but the growing destitution of Iraqis, coupled with a large influx of Syrian refugees to neighboring countries, has increased the strain on those nations. 

Violence in Syria has affected Iraqi refugees living there, as well as in other countries in the region.  Iraqi refugees in Syria are negatively impacted by the ongoing violence and the resulting surge in criminal activity, such as killings, kidnappings, robberies, threats, and harassment.  The conflict in Syria has also affected refugees’ movements and access to public services.  Access to Iraqi refugees by humanitarian organizations continues to be limited by security concerns and active conflict. 

How Does PRM Help?

PRM supports assistance programs for Iraqi IDPs, returnees, and refugees, through international organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).  Our assistance programs are designed to provide protection, including legal aid, basic humanitarian assistance, education, and support to rebuild livelihoods. 

PRM assistance also helps to build the capacity of the Government of Iraq and local authorities to respond to emergent crises, provide civil documentation to IDPs and returnees, and to reintegrate returning Iraqis successfully. 

Where Does PRM Work in the Region?

PRM has Refugee Coordinators in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey who oversee protection, humanitarian assistance, and U.S. resettlement of refugee populations on behalf of the U.S. government.  

Syrians 

Syria Crisis Overview

The United States and the international community are working to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to those affected by the brutal conflict in Syria.  Over 11 million Syrians are either internally displaced (IDPs) or have sought refuge in other countries, and even higher numbers are in need of international humanitarian assistance. Countries neighboring Syria that host the largest populations of Syrians refugees are Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.  Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the United States has provided life-saving humanitarian assistance for those forcibly displaced, ultimately saving lives and alleviating human suffering.  This assistance includes medical care, shelter, food, clean water, relief supplies, access to education, mental health and psychosocial services, and protection – including activities to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.  U.S. funding also helps mitigate the impact of the crisis on governments and communities throughout the region that are straining to cope after nine years of hosting millions of refugees from Syria. 

What Are the Major Challenges in the Region?

Millions of civilians in Syria remain displaced and are in need of international assistance after years of conflict.  Given access challenges, some areas have been reached only infrequently by humanitarian agencies, leaving millions with insufficient access to food, water, and healthcare.  Most Syrian refugees live in urban and non-camp settings and many experience difficulty securing civil documentation and meeting their basic needs after years of displacement. 

How Does PRM Help?

U.S. assistance supports the activities of many international organizations including UNHCR, the World Food Program (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Syria and neighboring countries.  Since 2012, the United States has provided more than $11.3 billion in humanitarian assistance for displaced and conflict-affected Syrians in Syria and the region. Of this, PRM has provided approximately half, including nearly $765 million in FY 2019. 

Examples of PRM assistance for forcibly displaced Syrians

In Turkey, PRM funds Relief International (RI), who partners with local non-governmental organizations to provide a wide variety of programming, including small business support, physical therapy, prosthesis and orthosis devices, assistive devices, specialized mental health counseling for children and adults, and community health information sessions for both vulnerable Turkish host communities and refugees. 

In Lebanon, PRM is the largest donor to UNICEF’s emergency water, sanitation and hygiene services to approximately 200,000 Syrian refugees living in informal tented settlements located throughout the country.  In addition to providing refugees with sufficient clean water for drinking and household use, this funding prevents the spread of disease and alleviates the environmental impact of informal settlements on hosting communities. 

In Jordan, PRM is the largest donor to UNHCR’s efforts to register refugees, advocate on their behalf with the Jordanian government, provide specialized protection programs for particularly vulnerable refugees, assist in refugee basic assistance through multipurpose cash assistance, and administer camps with the Jordanian government. 

In Syria, PRM supports international organizations to provide shelter, safe drinking water, urgent medical care, emergency food assistance, humanitarian protection activities, and other urgent relief. 

In Iraq, PRM supports international organizations providing protection, including mental health services, and gender-based violence prevention and response for Syrian refugees in Iraq.  Additionally, PRM provides support to NGOs to provide counselling and legal assistance as well as shelter rehabilitation for Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. 

Where Does PRM Work in the Region?

PRM has Refugee Coordinators in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq who oversee protection, humanitarian assistance, and third-country resettlement of refugee populations on behalf of the U.S. government. 

Yemen 

Migration and Refugee Crisis Overview

The U.S. government continues to monitor the humanitarian situation in Yemen closely and provide assistance to displaced persons and conflict victims, as well as vulnerable migrants and refugees living in Yemen. Most internally displaced Yemenis fled their homes as a result of the ongoing conflict between the Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG), supported by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition, and the Houthis. The United Nations has called the humanitarian situation in Yemen the worst in the world, and the country faces a severe risk of famine due to high levels of food insecurity, malnutrition, mortality, and disease outbreaks. The humanitarian situation is compounded by the unmitigated spread of COVID-19 leading to the near collapse of the healthcare system. International humanitarian organizations have limited access to some areas because of security concerns and other constraints. The U.S. government continues to encourage parties to the conflict to reach a long-term political solution. 

What Are the major Challenges in the Region?

Conflict remains the biggest driver of humanitarian need in Yemen. Because of the conflict, Yemen’s fragile economy is on the brink of collapse. According to the UN nearly 80 percent of the Yemeni population, or about 24 million people, are estimated to be in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, including 14.3 million people in acute need of assistance.  Even though famine has not been declared, the risk of famine remains high among the most vulnerable communities as millions of people face severe food insecurity, malnutrition, and disease.  An estimated 3.6 million Yemenis are currently displaced within the country. 

Lack of services, interrupted livelihoods, and the presence of mines and other unexploded ordnance remain significant challenges to the sustained, safe, and voluntary return of internally displaced persons.  In addition, extreme bureaucratic constraints, insecurity, and active conflict limit the ability of many humanitarian organizations to reach those in need. 

How Does PRM Help?

PRM supports assistance programs for internally displaced and conflict-affected Yemenis through international organizations (IOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in addition to assisting refugees and migrants in Yemen. PRM’s primary IO partner in this endeavor is the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Our assistance programs are designed to provide protection, basic humanitarian assistance, shelter, health care, water and sanitation interventions, and camp coordination and camp management services. 

Additionally, PRM advocates for political and economic solutions to address the underlying causes of Yemen’s man-made humanitarian crisis. To prevent the crisis from worsening, it remains critical that humanitarian and commercial supplies—including food, fuel, and medicine—are allowed to flow into Aden and the Red Sea ports and throughout Yemen freely and without delay. All parties to the conflict must avoid civilian targets and destruction or damage to vital civilian infrastructure—including hospitals, water systems, and markets—and facilitate the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance. 

Where Does PRM Work in the Region?

Regional Refugee and Humanitarian Coordinators based in Amman, Jordan help to cover PRM’s engagement with UNHCR in Yemen, as UNHCR’s Bureau for the Middle East and North Africa is based in Amman.  In addition, the Regional Refugee and Humanitarian Coordinator based in the Horn of Africa is responsible for monitoring the situation of Somali refugees and other African migrants in Yemen.  Program officers in Washington, DC monitor PRM-funded programs and humanitarian assistance in Yemen.

Northern Africa 

Migration and Refugee Crisis Overview

PRM supports protection and assistance programs for refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, and vulnerable migrants throughout North Africa, including in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.  

What are the major challenges in the region?

Egypt

The majority of the thousands of Syrian refugees in North Africa are in Egypt.  Egypt has been relatively welcoming to Syrians, but funding gaps remain for PRM partners, especially in the areas of education, livelihoods, healthcare, and mental health and psychosocial support. Egypt also hosts significant numbers of Sub-Saharan refugees, many of whom are very vulnerable and have limited access to basic social services and livelihoods.  

Libya

Over half a million vulnerable migrants and nearly 50,000 refugees and asylum-seekers currently reside in Libya.   In the absence of a national asylum system, many find themselves in unsafe and exploitative conditions due to violence and insecurity.  Hundreds of thousands of Libyans are currently displaced from their homes due to the violence and the aftermath of the 2011 revolution.  When returning to their communities, they often find their houses looted or destroyed, and they have limited access to basic social services.  United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other PRM partners work to provide essential household items, food, medical supplies and training, and limited protection for migrants, refugees, and internally displaced Libyans.  

Algeria

Algeria hosts a large population of Sahrawi refugees who were displaced from Western Sahara in the 1970s as a result of a conflict with Morocco.  PRM’s partners have identified more than 100,000 people among this population who are either vulnerable to food insecurity or are food insecure. Finding durable solutions for this population has been challenging given political sensitivities.  PRM supports protection and assistance for refugees in Algeria primarily through contributions to UNHCR, and with occasional support to World Food Program (WFP) projects.  

Vulnerable Migrants

Thousands of irregular migrants travel to Europe via the Western and Central Mediterranean routes, and thousands more migrate to and through North African countries for other reasons.  Many migrants and asylum seekers fall victim to egregious abuses along the way, including unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention, gang rape, slavery, forced labor, and extortion.  Libya continues to serve as a transit point to Europe for African migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers, and violence and insecurity, coupled with the lack of a national asylum system, drives desperate migrants to flee to Europe via dangerous waters in unsafe vessels.  The number of migrants who have died attempting the crossing has decreased from a high of over 5,000 in 2016, but is again on the rise, with over 1,400 deaths in 2020. The number of migrants who die in the desert trying to reach northern Libya is unknown, but analysts believe it could be far higher than the number who perish at sea.  Irregular migration on the Western Mediterranean route between Spain and Morocco increased significantly in 2020, as migrants from West Africa have begun opting for this route over Libya.  The route has become increasingly dangerous as well.  Algeria is also a transit and destination country for an unknown but significant number of vulnerable migrants.  

How does PRM help?

PRM funds international organizations, such as the UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide humanitarian protection and assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, and vulnerable migrants.  PRM also works with UNHCR, IOM, and NGOs in North Africa to address the challenges of urban refugee and migrant protection, advocating on their behalf for greater access to legal and social services.  

PRM supports the efforts of ICRC to promote international humanitarian law, and to build the capacities of national Red Cross societies across North Africa to better respond to victims of conflict as well as natural disasters.  

In 2020 and 2021, PRM provided support to several international organizations to respond to COVID-19 challenges affecting refugee populations.   

PRM also supports small NGO projects in the region through the Julia V. Taft Fund for Refugees 

Where does PRM work in the region?

PRM Washington staff, together with Dakar- and Amman-based Regional Refugee Coordinators monitor PRM-funded programs in North Africa. 

 

U.S. Department of State

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