Refugees arrive in Turkey along a route to the west, in Erzurum, Turkey | Photo: EPA/ERDEM SAHIN
Refugees arrive in Turkey along a route to the west, in Erzurum, Turkey | Photo: EPA/ERDEM SAHIN

For the first time in history, over 70 million people worldwide have been displaced, according to a report just released by the UN refugee agency. Where do these people come from – and where are they going? We summed up all you need to know about the latest UNHCR report.

Every year, the UN refugee agency UNHCR releases a report that tracks refugees and internally displaced people worldwide.

How many people have been displaced?

This year, the UNHCR had a sad record to report: A total of 70.8 million people had been forcibly displaced by the end of 2018. This is almost one percent of the world population.

This includes:

- 25.9 million refugees (= people who fled their home country)

- 41.3 million internally displaced people (=people who had to flee their homes, but stayed in their own country)

- 3.5 million asylum seekers (=people who say they are refugees, but authorities are still reviewing whether they qualify for refugee status)

Compared to the previous year, the number of refugees rose by half a million, the number of internally displaced people by 1,3 million and the total number of displaced people by 2,3 million.

Which countries have the largest displaced populations?

Syrians continued to be the largest forcibly displaced population in 2018, with 13.0 million people living in displacement, including 6,7 million refugees and 6,2 internally displaced people. 

Colombians were the second largest group, with 8 million forcibly displaced, most of them (98 percent) inside their own country. 

The DR Congo had the third largest displaced population: 5.4 million people; about 4.5 million of them fled within their own country.     

How many children and women have been displaced?

Many of those who have been displaced are children: 52 percent of refugees worldwide are below the age of 18.

There are roughly the same number of displaced men and women worldwide.

But the number of women and children among the refugee population differs slightly depending on which regions you look at. Only 44 percent of refugees who made it to Europe are female, only 41 percent are younger than 18. In Africa, 52 percent of refugees are women and 57 percent below the age of 18.

Where do refugees come from?

The top five countries of origin are

- Syria (6.7 million refugees)

- Afghanistan (2.7 million)

- South Sudan (2.3 million) 

- Myanmar (1.1 million)

- Somalia (950,000)

They account for two thirds of the worldwide refugee population. 

Other top countries of origin are Sudan (725,000), the DR Congo (720,000), the Central African Republic (591,000), Eritrea (507,000), and Burundi (388,000).  

The biggest number of asylum seekers in 2018 came from Venezuela - just over 340,000 people. 

Where do refugees flee to? 

Relatively few refugees settle in rural areas - 61 percent of refugees live in cities.

80 percent of refugees are being hosted in neighboring countries, This also means that most refugees are living in developing countries where a majority of natives are already struggling. 

Rich countries on average host 2.7 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants, poor and medium developed countries host 5.8 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants. 

The European Union hosts roughly 9 percent of all refugees. 

The top five host countries for refugees are 

- Turkey (3.7 million)

- Pakistan (1.4 million)

- Uganda (1.2 million)

- Sudan (1.1 million)

- Germany (1.1 million)

The countries that host the most refugees relative to their population are Jordan and Lebanon. In Jordan, one in three persons is a refugee, in Lebanon, it's one in four. The European country with the highest relative number of refugees is Sweden: One in forty people there is a refugee. 

What are the chances they will go back soon?

According to the UNHCR, most displaced people are fleeing from long-lasting conflicts: Four in five refugees were displaced by conflicts that have lasted for five or more years. 

Which countries have the most internally displaced people? 

The five countries with the largest number of internally displaced people are

- Colombia (7.8 million)

- Syria (6.2 million)

- DR Congo (4.5 million)

- Somalia (2.6 million)

- Ethopia (2.6 million) 

Other countries with large numbers of internally displaced people were Nigeria, Yemen, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Sudan. Each of these countries had between 2.2 and 1.9 million internationally displaced people. 

You can read the full report here


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