Intended for healthcare professionals


Refugee crisis presents a humanitarian paradox

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 10 October 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5412
  1. Alexander van Tulleken, Helen Hamlyn senior fellow
  1. Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs, Fordham University, New York, USA
  1. avantulleken{at}

Health professionals are caught between the urgent needs of individuals and politically motivated policies of containment

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 65 million people in the world today have been displaced by violence or armed conflict.1 Unicef estimates that 28 million of these people are children.2 Over 21 million refugees are thought to be living outside their countries of origin. These appalling numbers are higher than they were even during the second world war. Half of the displaced people come from just three countries—Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia3—but ongoing violence in Colombia, Sudan, Congo, Central America, and many other places contributes substantially.

This vast global crisis increasingly refuses to go unnoticed. The issue of migration has not simply reshaped British politics; it looks likely to alter the nature of the British state. Discussions of refugees and migrants dominate the elections in the US and all over Europe.

It was with these issues in mind that representatives of states, UN agencies, …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription