31 Refugee Facts and Statistics

Many people leave their countries because of violence, natural disaster, persecution, and human rights violations. These people cannot go back home, and they have to cross national boundaries into neighboring countries or look to seek new lives in developed countries. People who come from affected areas of conflict can seek asylum legally. The following refugee facts cover a broad range of areas to inform you about the plight of the world's refugees, the reasons, and the size of displacement across the globe.  

General Refugee Facts

#1 - 1% of the world's population is displaced1

Millions of people flee from their countries and homes due to wars, persecution, human rights violations, and other forms of violence. They end up living either as refugees, asylum seekers or in internally displaced communities within their own countries.

A considerable number of people fleeing war leave their homes, and they try to find their way into the United States of America or other developed countries. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), created to help people displaced following World War II, states that the war in Ukraine has led to the fastest-growing refugee crisis in modern times.

#2 - There are about 26 million refugees around the world1 

The number of people forcibly displaced worldwide has continued to grow at an alarming rate. About 79.5 million people are out of their homes because of natural disasters, violence, poverty, and lots more, creating a global refugee crisis. This is the most significant number since world war II, and out of this number, 26 million are refugees who have fled to other countries. 

Refugee demographics across displaced populations and those seeking asylum

Refugee Camp Athens
Picture of a refugee camp outside Athens, Greece, where some of the millions of Syrian refugee children are homed waiting for asylum. Photo by Julie Ricard on Unsplash

#3 - 40% of people displaced worldwide are children1 

Child refugees

#4 - Nearly 50% of refugees worldwide are under the age of 181 

The number of refugee children forced to leave home due to poverty, conflicts, domestic abuse, war, and violence is rising. Often displaced at a young age, refugee children can spend all their childhood years in exile from their own country.

Child refugees make up about half of the refugee population, and Syrian refugees make up a considerable percentage due to the Syrian conflict. Often refugee families are split as parents seek to send their children ahead to perceived safety.

#5 - 78% of displaced people are hosted in neighboring countries1 

Neighboring countries to countries with displaced persons always have a large inflow of refugees. This affects both the economic and social aspects of the countries and their populations.

Facts about refugees and where they come from

#6 - 68% of people displaced worldwide are from just 5 countries1 

Namely Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar. Displaced populations in these countries largely depend on external and international bodies like world vision for their survival. Loss of income and lack of access to safety nets increases the refugees' vulnerability to violence and exploitation


#7 - 6.6 million people from Syria are displaced1 

Syria has the largest number of forcibly displaced refugees. The refugee facts in Syria show that over 6.6 million Syrians have fled from their country since 2011, and another 6.7 million no longer have homes but remain trapped inside the country. The vast majority of Syrian refugees have found safety in neighboring countries like Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, often in refugee camps.

#8 - 1.1 million people from Myanmar are displaced1 

The need to thrive in a better environment away from natural disasters, race, religion, nationality, and political violence has pushed most Myanmar refugees and others seeking protection to live in Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. 

#9 - 2.7 million people from Afghanistan are displaced1 

Afghans represent the longest-displaced and the longest-dispossessed population. Afghans are increasingly fleeing to other countries around the world to escape the sharp deterioration in security inside Afghanistan. 

South America

#10 - 3.7 million people from Venezuela are displaced1 

People from Venezuela make up the world's second-largest refugee group after the 6.6 million Syrian refugees displaced by their country's war. Forcibly displaced people, including children, women, and men, have fled economic and political turmoil in Venezuela and have to cross the border to Colombia.


#11 - 2.2 million people from South Sudan are displaced1 

Over 2.2 million refugees from South Sudan have witnessed intermittent civil war since December 2013 and widespread communal and localized violence. Therefore, many people from South Sudan migrate to other neighboring countries in search of basic needs and jobs.   

Where do refugees head?

Refugees welcome
Photo by Ra Dragon on Unsplash

#12 - 85% of displaced people are hosted in developing countries1 

Refugee facts show that a huge percentage of asylum seekers worldwide live in developing countries. This is because refugees move from economies struggling to survive in search of green pastures. 

#13 - There were 2 million asylum applications in 20191 

This number only includes newly displaced refugees' applications and those seeking asylum whose refugee status has yet to be determined. Germany is the world's largest recipient of new individual applications, followed by the United States of America, Sweden, and the Russian Federation. 

Protecting the rights of refugees

The Refugee Convention, created in 1951, states the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. An asylum seeker is defined as someone seeking refugee status but has not yet formally been recognized as a refugee.

Refugees can face persecution due to political opinion, race, religion, and other forms of discrimination. Most pertinently, it is not a crime in international law to seek asylum, and governments should not return refugees to countries where they may face persecution.

#14 - Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees, with 3.6 million people2

Starting from the 1980s, refugee facts show that there has been a considerable influx of refugees to Turkey, especially from the Iran-Iraq regions. A vast majority of the refugees are nationals of the Syrian Arab Republic. 

#15 - Columbia hosts the second largest number of refugees, with 1.5 million people2

In 2015, Columbia had the largest number of refugees in the camp. This country also hosts refugees from Venezuela because of blatant violations of the human rights of the people in Venezuela. Many refugees have to leave their homes. 

#16 - 39% of refugees are hosted in five countries2

Namely Turkey, Columbia, Pakistan, Uganda, and Germany. These countries have given refuge to more than 9 million refugees. These are people who fled or left their country.  

Elsewhere in the world

#17 - The Least Developed Countries worldwide provide asylum to 28% of all refugees2 

This places an enormous burden on the under-developed countries. Refugees flee these countries for varying reasons, and many conflict-ridden countries share the same boundaries with poor neighbors. 

#18 - There are about 300,000 Nigerian refugees in Chad, Cameroon, and Niger3 

The number of displaced persons from Nigeria is rising because of the country's killings in the northwest region. This has caused over 2 million Nigerians to leave their homes and 300,00 people to migrate to other neighboring countries. 

Internally displaced people facts 

#19 - There were 33.4 million new internally displaced people in 20195

This is the highest figure since 2012. Year after year, violence, conflicts and natural disaster uproots people from their homes. The number keeps increasing, causing a worrying trend that will increase refugees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conflict Areas

#20 - There are over 2 million internally displaced people in Nigeria3

Nigeria suffers a massive refugee crisis that has seen the movement of so many displaced persons from their homes to the streets due to insurgency in the country's North-East region. 

#21 - Over 684,000 people have been displaced in Chad, Cameroon, and Niger3

Nigeria faces multiple crises, with a protracted conflict in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states, which has spread to neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

Intercommunal clashes in the northwest have led to over 40,000 people crossing the border with Niger for safety and climate shocks such as drought and floods. Nigeria also hosts about 50,000 Cameroonian refugees in the west and faces a widespread farmers and herders crisis in its middle belt region.

#22 - The Boko Haram insurgency has displaced nearly 2.4 million people in the Lake Chad Basin3

Nigeria today is amongst the countries with the highest overall conflict risk index and increased risk of socio-economic vulnerability, inequality, and food insecurity. After more than ten years of conflict, the Boko Haram terrorist group still firmly grips some states in the country.  

#23 - There were 2.6 million internal displacements due to conflict in the Middle East and North Africa in 20195

There is an overall increase in new displacements that pass through conflict and violence in Iraq and Syria. As the conflict in Iraq wanes, the figures reduce while Syria increases due to the country's ongoing fighting. 

#24 - Conflict and violence triggered 602,000 new displacements in the Americas in 20195

The United States, El Salvador, Brazil, Colombia, and Bolivia experienced the most internal displacement at the continental level. In America, violence is 28% which is 602,000 displacements while disaster accounts for 72% which is 1,545,000 displacements.

The Refugee Facts and Natural Disasters

#25 - In 2019, 631,000 displacements were recorded in the Middle East and North Africa due to disasters5

This region accounts for a quarter of people displaced globally, which has triggered massive population movements from countries like Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. Countries in this region that are not experiencing these conflicts host a large majority of these refugees.

#26 - In Asia and the Pacific, 9.6 million displacements occurred in 2019 due to disasters5

Both regions have high populations and have an increased vulnerability to hazards. Storms and floods relatively affected 9.6 million refugees causing them to lose their homes. Such massive movements affect the economy of those displaced and the countries they seek refuge in. 

#27 - About 9.5 million disaster displacements were recorded in South Asia in 2019, the highest figure since 2012 5

The monsoon in India and Bangladesh and cyclones Fani and Bulbul were part of the causes of the flood that forced people out of their homes into the streets. Conflict, inequality, poverty, and violence also trigger mass displacement every year. 

Future Projections of Refugee Resettlement Needs

#28 - For 2021, refugees from DRC and South Sudan are estimated to have the second and third highest needs globally 4

These refugee facts project that in 2021 there will be an increase in the number of refugees in South Sudan and DRC. While the United Nations and other agencies have projects that reduce the displacement capacity, more resettlement projects will reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

#29 - Projected resettlement needs from Africa account for 43% of global resettlement needs4

This covers more than 32 African countries with numerous refugees and people seeking asylum. This three-year strategy will help reduce the number of displaced people in Africa. 

#30 - An 11% increase in resettlement needs is projected in the Middle East and North Africa region in 20214

Places with large refugee camps will need to admit more refugees, considering the increase in the resettlement needs in the region.  

The growing number of refugees leads to increased demand for resettlement and protection

#31 - Nearly 1.5 million resettlement needs are projected for 2021 worldwide4

The most appropriate solutions to solve settlement issues for refugees in 2021 is part of an ongoing, active, and collaborative effort of UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) staff and its NGO partners. Ultimately, no one from a particular social group, country of origin, or through no fault of their own should be forced to relocate country.

World Refugee Day, held on June 20th every year, helps raise awareness of refugees' plight and further celebrate their strength and courage.

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1 The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, 2020. Figures at a Glance
2 The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, 2020. Refugee Data Finder
3 The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, 2020. Nigeria Emergency
4 The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, 2020. Projected Global Resettlement Needs 2021
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