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Minorities and indigenous peoples

Minorities and indigenous peoples

As violence and persecution increasingly force millions to abandon their homes, UNHCR strives to ensure that the rights of all refugees and other forcibly displaced populations, including members of minority and indigenous groups, are met without discrimination.

Minorities and indigenous peoples are often among the most marginalized communities in many societies: they are often excluded from participation in socio‐economic life, rarely have access to political power and frequently encounter obstacles to manifesting their identity. These obstacles are multiplied during forced displacement and the protection risks they experienced are exacerbated.

Refugees who are members of minorities or indigenous peoples are likely to be affected both by the immediate events leading to their displacement and by the long‑term legacy of discrimination. This amplified discrimination might affect some members of the community more than others, particularly women, children, persons with disabilities, older persons and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) persons.

At UNHCR, we work with governments, as well as local, regional and global actors to protect persons belonging to national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous persons. Where possible, we engage with minorities and indigenous communities to support their efforts in maintaining their cultural heritage and identity, and ensure they have access to information and services, as well as opportunities to participate in decisions affecting them.

minority is a national or ethnic, religious or linguistic group, fewer in number than the rest of the population, whose members share a common identity. Usually, minorities are non-dominant in comparison with majorities in the economic and political spheres of their country.

Indigenous people generally have a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories. Indigenous people often enjoy particular rights, including the right to practice customary law and the right to protect traditional knowledge, intellectual property and cultural heritage.

In many parts of the world, these groups can be victims of severe human rights violations, violence, conflict, ethnic or religious persecution and, in extreme cases, genocide. As a result, they are often left with no choice but to flee.

There is a possibility that displaced populations belonging to a majority in their country of origin may end up in a minority-like situation in asylum. Although such displaced populations will not suffer from the debilitating effects of past discrimination, they may now be at risk of exclusion and marginalization.