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Home / News / Displaced people’s perilous journeys: border violence as a public health issue

Displaced people’s perilous journeys: border violence as a public health issue

NOMIS Awardee Didier Fassin and sociologist Anne-Claire Defossez have authored an article addressing a growing public health concern—border violence—in a special issue of The Lancet. To mark its bicentennial year, the special issue has been published to celebrate, self-reflect and amplify the journal’s founding ideas with its present-day impact and vision for the future. An excerpt of the article follows:

“The 21st century has seen displacement of migrants and refugees unprecedented since World War 2. As of the end of 2022, of the 108 million people who had to leave their homes because of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations, 62·5 million were internally displaced, 35·3 million were refugees, and 5·4 million were officially asylum seekers.

However, the number of people still in transit in search of protection or a better life is unknown. Whether they are Venezuelans trying to reach the USA, Senegalese trying to reach the Canary Islands, or Ethiopians trying to reach Saudi Arabia, or whether they are Guineans crossing the Sahara, Afghans crossing the Evros River, or Rohingyas crossing the Andaman Sea, the only figures that we have about these people are the conservative statistics produced by the International Organization for Migration of the number of deaths worldwide: 58 280 in 10 years.

But what about those who survived? In Europe, an indirect source is the number of asylum seekers, since most people arriving after forcible displacement apply for refugee status. In 2022, not counting Ukrainians who were granted temporary protection, there were 881 000 people seeking asylum, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela, and Türkiye.

This means at least an equivalent number of people travelled from their home country to their host country in the previous months or years. Yet, we know little of the journey of this approximately 1 million displaced people.”


NOMIS Researchers

James D. Wolfensohn Professor
École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Institute for Advanced Study
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