Geographies in Depth

The number of refugees has increased 70% since 2011

Rohingya refugees gather to mark the second anniversary of the exodus at the Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, August 25, 2019.

Rohingya refugees gather to mark the second anniversary of the exodus at the Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, August 25, 2019. Image: REUTERS/Rafiqur Rahman

Emi Suzuki
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The number of refugees globally rose to 25.9 million in 2018, up from 25.4 million in 2017, and setting a new record, according to newly released UNHCR report and World Bank estimates. The number of people seeking international protection outside of their country of origin has increased 70% since 2011.

Countries producing the largest numbers of refugees include (in order) the Syrian Arab Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia, and Sudan. More than half (56%) of the world’s refugees in 2018 came from these six countries. The number of refugees from Syria, South Sudan, and Myanmar has increased rapidly over the last couple of years.

Image: UNHCR and World Bank

Where do these refugees go? The majority of them live in countries neighboring their countries of origin. About half of the world’s 26 million refugees are hosted by just six countries—Turkey, Jordan, West Bank and Gaza, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Uganda. The share rises to nearly 75% if the next eight refugee-hosting countries: Bangladesh, Chad, Congo DR, Ethiopia, Germany, Iran, South Sudan, and Syria. Among the regions of the world, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Central Asia, and South Asia host the largest numbers of refugees. The majority of hosts are low- and middle-income countries.

Image: UNCHR, UNRWA, and World Bank

These new data will become available soon in the World Development Indicators database. To monitor these situations, statistics are critical to inform the response of the international community. The Expert Group on Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Statistics (EGRIS) was established in 2016 and continues its efforts for more reliable and high-quality refugee statistics. A blog about World Bank engagement through the EGRIS is available here.

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Related topics:
Geographies in DepthEconomic Growth
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