• The number of displaced people has reached an all-time high.
  • One in every 97 people on the planet was forced to flee their home by the end of 2019.
  • The past decade has seen refugee levels increase in every region of the world. Many of those displaced are children.

More than 1% of the people on Earth were forcibly displaced by the end of 2019, a new UNHCR report shows, and displacement numbers are increasing over time.

Wars, violence or persecution forced 11 million people to flee their homes throughout the year, mostly from low- or middle-income countries, creating a total displaced global population of almost 80 million – nearly double the 2010 figure. An estimated 30-34 million of these were below the age of 18.

The refugee agency’s latest annual Global Trends – Forced Displacement report shows more than half of those fleeing conflict went to other parts of their homeland. Around the world, 2019 saw 8.5 million people internally displaced, making a total of 45.7 million.

More than two-thirds of all refugees, meanwhile, came from just five countries. The majority of those displaced abroad were hosted in countries neighbouring their place of origin.

Displacement journeys

Current global conflict hotspots include Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar, but refugee numbers have increased in every region of the world over the past decade.
Climate change has added to concerns about food insecurity in some parts of the globe, impacting already complex situations for many displaced people facing conflict, poverty and hunger.

refugees asylum migration immigration camps displacement united nations un rights Syrian venezuela afganistan south sudan myanmar somalia drc democratice republic of congo iraq centeral african republic
Top international displacement situation by country of origin.
Image: UNHCR

Syria continues to have the largest forcibly displaced population of any country, with 6.6 million international refugees and more than 6 million internally displaced people.

This year’s Global Trends report includes figures for 3.6 million Venezuelans displaced abroad, not featured in previous versions of the report. As the chart below shows, nearly 1.8 million Venezuelans fled to neighbouring Colombia in the year to September 2019.

refugees asylum migration immigration camps displacement united nations un rights Syrian venezuela afganistan south sudan myanmar somalia drc democratice republic of congo iraq centeral african republic
Top international displacement situations by host country.
Image: UNHCR

Turkey remains the country hosting the largest number of internationally displaced people, with 3.9 million, mostly Syrian refugees escaping conflict in their homeland, the report shows.

Germany also hosted large populations of Syrians seeking shelter, which formed two-fifths of almost 1.5 million refugees and asylum seekers that settled there.

Pakistan and Uganda took in around 1.4 million each, ahead of the US with 800,000 asylum seekers and 300,000 refugees.

More than 300,000 asylum seekers registered a new claim for refuge in the US in 2019, more than any other nation. The deteriorating situation in Venezuela and conflict in Central America led to a spike in asylum applications in the US, followed by Peru, and other parts of the Americas.

Germany received the world’s third largest number of asylum applications, with 142,500, ahead of France and Spain, as many people risked crossing the Mediterranian to escape conflict in countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Starting over

While the most vulnerable refugees are forced to seek resettlement in a new country, in time others are able to return home, either spontaneously or with the help of aid organizations.

Over the past decade, 55% of all resettled refugees found new lives in the US, 20% in Canada and 11% in Australia. In 2019, 107,800 refugees were successfully resettled.

refugees asylum migration immigration camps displacement united nations un rights Syrian venezuela afganistan south sudan myanmar somalia drc democratice republic of congo iraq centeral african republic
Resettled and returning refugees.
Image: UNHCR

Since 2010, 3.9 million refugees have returned to their home countries. Almost a quarter of these people were Afghans who fled the turmoil in their homeland. Today, returnees from the past two decades make up about a fifth of Afghanistan’s population.

In 2019, 317,200 refugees returned to their homes in 34 different countries, with the largest groups in South Sudan, Syria and the Central African Republic.

As World Refugee Day approaches, we cannot know how many people will be able to return home in future. Wars, famine, drought and outbreaks of disease like coronavirus are by their very nature unpredictable. But programmes to support displaced people around the world are a vital part of reversing their increasing numbers and helping them rebuild their lives.