Refugee Statistics

Find the latest data and statistics on global displacement. 

Photo: © UNHCR/Sylvain Cherkaoui

An unprecedented 79.5 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also millions of stateless people who have been denied a nationality and lack access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. At a time when 1 per cent of the world’s population have fled their homes as a result of conflict or persecution, our work at UNHCR is more important than ever before.

 

Global Trends at a glance

Every year, UNHCR publishes the Global Trends report on forced displacement. We count and track the numbers of refugees, internally displaced persons, people who have returned to their countries or areas of origin, asylum-seekers, stateless people and other populations of concern. This process is extremely important in order to meet the needs of refugees and other displaced persons around the world and it helps organizations and States to plan their humanitarian responses.

Key facts and figures

  • 79.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2019 as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations. We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. This includes 26 million refugees45.7 million internally displaced persons, and 45.7 million asylum-seekers.
  • Five countries accounted for two-thirds of people displaced across borders in 2019: SyriaVenezuelaAfghanistanSouth Sudan and Myanmar.
  • An estimated 30–34 million of the 79.5 million forcibly displaced persons were children below 18 years of age (around 40 per cent).
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  • In the last decade, 20 million people were granted international protection as refugees. The number of refugees has doubled from about 10 million in 2010 to 20.4 million at the end of 2019. 
  • Internal displacement surged to levels never before seen over the last 10 years. In 2005, UNHCR was working in 15 countries with internally displaced populations. By 2010, the number of countries had increased to 26, and it now stands at 33. In 2005, UNHCR worked with 6.6 million internally displaced persons, a number that grew to about 15 million by 2010 and stood at more than 43.5 million at the end of 2019 – representing an almost 7-fold increase in only 15 years. 
  • Asylum applications are on the rise. Between 2010 and 2019, States or UNHCR registered more than 16.2 million individual asylum applications globally. In 2019, two million new asylum applications were registered, making up 14 per cent of the total for the entire decade. 
  • Millions of people across the world who do not possess a nationality are stateless and consequently are often denied basic rights. UNHCR reported on a global number of 4.2 million stateless persons including those of undetermined nationality in 76 countries at the end of 2019. In the last decade, 754,500 stateless persons acquired nationality. 
  • Finding durable solutions that enable displaced people to rebuild their lives and live in safety and dignity is at the core of UNHCR’s work. Over the last decade, five million refugees found a solution through resettlement or voluntary repatriation, including 107,800 refugees resettled in 2019. But solutions for refugees are in decline. Resettlement benefits only a fraction of the world’s refugees. In 2019, only half a per cent of the world’s refugees were resettled. Over the past 10 years, just over one million refugees were resettled, compared to 3.9 million refugees who returned to their country. 
  • In 2019, Canada once again came out as the world leader in the resettlement of refugees, ranking first among 26 countriesLast year, Canada provided 30,082 refugees with the opportunity to build a new life for themselves and their families, including through its private sponsorship program which accounted for 58 per cent over the past ten years. 

Facts and figures by country/region

Central African Republic

The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has been troubled by unrest for years, but since May 2017, fresh and fierce clashes between armed groups have wrought increasing suffering, deaths and destruction of property. As of June 2020, there were over 792,584 refugees from the Central African Republic in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Congo. This is the highest number of refugees from the Central African Republic since the start of the crisis. In addition to refugees, 684,004 people have been forced to flee inside the country. 

Central America

The number of refugees and asylum-seekers from the North of Central America (NCA) has soared in the last five years. Worsening crime and violence fuelled by drug cartels and gangs account for much of the increase, along with fragile institutions and increasing inequalities. In Nicaragua, political persecution and human rights violations have been driving large-scale displacement as well. As of June 2020, there were around 470,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from the North of Central America worldwide, with over 97,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Mexico. In Honduras and El Salvador, there are over 318,000 internally displaced persons, and over 102,000 Nicaraguans have sought international protection around the world. 

Locals sit in a rickshaw in the La Era neighbourhood of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa. ; An estimated 174,000 Hondurans have been displaced by territorial violence from gangs, known as “maras”, in the decade between 2005 and 2015, according to a report from the Honduran government. The country had the highest homicide rate in the world in 2014 and families continue to abandon their homes in search of safer environments in the United States, Mexico and neighbouring Central American countries like Belize. In communities in cities like San Pedro Sula in the north, residents tell stories of relatives whose houses have been burned down, young boys being recruited into gangs and young girls too afraid to attend school because of the unwanted attentions of “mareros” (gang members). The UN Refugee Agency chief in Honduras, Andrés Celis, says mechanisms for people seeking protection from the government must be improved so that the state can respond more effectively to displaced people’s needs for shelter and relocation.

Ali lying on his bed

Iraq

Millions of Iraqis have been forced to abandon their homes after decades of conflict and violence. Mass executions, systematic rape and horrendous acts of violence are widespread, and human rights and rule of law are under constant attack. By the end of 2019, there were a total of 1.4 million internally displaced persons4.6 million returnees since 2014286,900 refugees and asylum-seekers, and 47,300 stateless persons. 

Libya

In 2019, an estimated 1.1 million people required humanitarian assistance in Libya, including some 355,700 internally displaced persons and 447,400 who have returned home. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country are suffering. They are living in unsafe conditions with little or no access to health care, essential medicines, food, safe drinking water, shelter or education. Libya also hosts 43,113 refugees and asylum-seekers who are registered with UNHCR. Refugees are travelling alongside migrants through dangerous routes towards Europe. Up to 90 per cent of people crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe depart from Libya.

Rohingya crisis

Rohingya refugees fled violence in Myanmar at a staggering rate in 2017 – and the numbers keep growing. At the peak of the crisis, thousands were crossing into Bangladesh daily. Most walked for days through jungles and mountains, or braved dangerous sea voyages across the Bay of Bengal. They arrived exhausted, hungry and sick – in need of international protection and humanitarian assistance. As of July 2019, over 742,000 refugees had fled to Bangladesh since 2017. 

South Sudan

Since December 2013, brutal conflict in South Sudan has claimed thousands of lives and driven nearly 4 million people from their homes. While many remain displaced inside the country, more than 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries in a desperate bid to reach safety. There are over 2.3 million refugees and asylum-seekers from South Sudan in the region. 

Syria

Millions of Syrians have escaped across borders, fleeing the bombs and bullets that have devastated their homes. Millions more are displaced inside Syria and, as war continues, hope is fading fast. More than 13.4 million people have fled the country since 2011. That’s more than half of the Syrian population. The vast majority of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan live in urban areas. In Lebanon, life is a daily struggle for more than million Syrian refugees, who have little or no financial resources. Around 70 per cent live below the poverty line. In Jordan, over 660,000 men, women and children are currently trapped in exile, and it is estimated that 93 per cent of refugees live below the poverty line.  

Venezuela

People continue to leave Venezuela to escape violence, insecurity and threats as well as lack of food, medicine and essential services. By the end of 2019, some 4.5 million Venezuelans had left their country, travelling mainly to other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is the largest exodus in the region’s recent history and one of the biggest displacement crises in the world. More than 900,000 Venezuelans have sought asylum in the last three years, including 430,000 in 2019 alone. Ongoing political, human rights and socio-economic developments in Venezuela compel growing numbers of children, women and men to leave for neighbouring countries and beyond. Many arrive scared, tired and in dire need of assistance.  

Yemen

A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Yemen – the worst humanitarian crisis in the world – as millions flee their homes to escape a devastating conflict. Many face desperate conditions and struggle to survive as they search for safety, shelter and emergency aid. Last year, unprecedented heavy rain and flooding added to their misery. Thousands of families who had already lost their home due to the fighting have yet again seen their temporary shelters, beddings and essential kitchen supplies destroyed. There are more than 24.1 million people in need in Yemen, and 80 per cent of the population is dependent on humanitarian aid for their daily survival. 

Education

Our fifth annual report on education, ‘Coming Together for Refugee Education’, was released in September 2020. The 2019 data in the report is based on reporting from twelve countries hosting more than half of the world’s refugee children.

  • At primary level, gross enrolment of refugee children in school stands at 77 per cent.
  • The contrast between primary and secondary level enrolment remains stark. Less than half of refugee children who start primary school make it to secondary level. Only 31 per cent of refugee children were enrolled at secondary level in 2019, although that was a rise of two points on the previous year, representing tens of thousands more children in school.
  • Even if refugee adolescents overcome the odds and make it through secondary school, only 3 per centwill be lucky enough to get a place in some form of higher education.
  • For refugee girls, the threat is particularly grave. Refugee girls already have less access to education than boys and are half as likely to be enrolled in school by the time they reach secondary level.
  • According to UNESCO, if all girls completed primary school, child marriage would fall by 14 per cent. If they all finished secondary education, it would plummet by 64 per cent. Other UNESCO research shows that one additional year of school has the potential to increase a girl’s earnings by up to 20 per cent.

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