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How many refugees are there in the world?

How many refugees are there in the world? Where do refugees come from, and where do they live? Which countries have the most refugees?

How many of these refugees need to be resettled, and how many of them are resettled? Where do they come from and live? Which countries resettle the most refugees?

How many refugees are there?

This graph shows the number of people who are ‘forcibly displaced’ in the world – that is, they have been forced to leave home, for example because of conflict, disaster or persecution. UNHCR most recently estimated for 30 June 2020 shows that, for the first time in recorded history, the number of people forcibly displaced is now 80 million, and over 26 million refugees.

Why are people forced to leave their homes?

Most people who are forced to leave home stay inside the same country, and are called ‘internally displaced’.

Learn about internal displacement

Two international bodies are responsible for refugees, who leave their country of origin. UNHCR is responsible for most refugees, but the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is responsible for refugees in Palestine. These are grouped together in the graph above.

Watch the Global Trends 2019 video to find out more

This world map shows where refugees come from – that is, their ‘country of origin’. You can zoom in to see this in more detail. You can hover over each country to see the numbers of refugees.

As you can see, there are some regions – in Africa and some key countries in the Middle East and North Africa – which have the most refugees. More than two-thirds  (67%) of refugees today come from only five countries.  These are mostly countries where there is conflict, such as Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan.

Outside of these key regions, there is now a large number of refugees from Venezuela, and in the Asia-Pacific Myanmar has long been one of the key countries producing refugees.

Where do refugees go to?

Most refugees stay in a country near their country of origin. This world map shows where refugees are living (their ‘country of asylum’).

This chart shows the key countries hosting refugees. Only a few countries host almost half of the refugees in the world. Apart from Germany, these are mostly countries that neighbour the countries with high numbers of refugees.

Every country has a different capacity to host refugees. To compare the numbers of refugees across countries more fairly, UNHCR also measures the number of refugees a country hosts compared to its own population, and compared to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which acts as a measure of its financial capacity.

This world map shows the number of refugees each country hosts, compared to its own population. You can see that Turkey, several countries in Africa, and several countries in South America (who are hosting displaced Venezuelans) have a higher number of refugees per population than most.

However, the smaller countries are harder to see on this map. This chart shows the top 10 countries hosting refugees by population. You can see that there are several small countries, including Nauru and Lebanon, that feature on this chart.

This world map shows the number of refugees each country hosts, compared to its GDP. You can see that the countries that are most financially affected by hosting refugees are largely in Africa.

This chart shows the top 10 countries hosting refugees, compared to GDP. Again, most countries are in Africa, or in the Middle East.

People seeking asylum (or asylum seekers) have not yet been recognised as refugees in the country where they are living.

Most of these people are living in countries with developed systems to decide if someone is a refugee (called a ‘refugee status determination systems’. However, in many other countries, UNHCR either determines refugee status or there is no formal process for determining refugee status.

How Australia decides if a person is a refugee

This world map shows the number of applications for asylum. You can see that large numbers of people are seeking asylum in South America (due to the situation in Venezuela), and that some European countries such as Germany and Spain also have high numbers.

Stateless people are people who are not citizens or nationals of any State.

Learn about statelessness

This first graph shows the estimated number of stateless people over time.

UNHCR has been campaigning to end statelessness, and this is partly the cause of the decrease in the number of stateless people.

Learn about UNHCR’s campaign to end statelessness

This graph shows where stateless people live. As you can see, there are some key countries near Australia that have high numbers of stateless people.

This page draws from the statistics produced by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Key publications

UNCHR publishes two key annual publications, from which this page draws:

  • Global Trends: this is published in the middle of each year, reporting data for the previous year (so, for example, Global Trends 2019 was published in June 2020), and is updated at the end of the year by Mid-Year Trends, with provisional data (so Mid-Year Trends 2020 is published in December 2020 with provisional data up to 30 June 2020)
  • Projected Resettlement Needs: this is published around the same time as UNHCR’s annual consultations on resettlement, usually in the middle of the year, and ‘projects’ the need for refugees to be resettled the following year (so Projected Resettlement Needs 2021 was published in the middle of 2020).

Key data portals

UNHCR also now has two key data portals, from which this page draws:

  • Refugee Data Finder: This provides data for displaced populations, asylum applications and decisions, and other data about forcibly displaced people. You can use this to create custom reports. Links to these custom reports are provided under graphs where used.
  • Resettlement Data Finder: This provides data on resettlement, namely when refugees are ‘resettled’ to another country. Importantly, this records data where UNHCR was involved in or organised resettlement, but does not include resettlements outside of those processes. Importantly, Australia resettles more than two-thirds of people under its Humanitarian Program outside of UNHCR’s processes.

Australia’s declining use of UNHCR referrals

This page uses Datawrapper to show interactive data. You can hover over the data, including countries on the maps, to get more detail, and download the data.


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