There are More Refugees Today Than Ever Before

The global refugee crisis shows little signs of letting up.
June 21, 2017, 3:58am

This article originally appeared on VICE News.

Nearly two years have passed since the image of a lifeless 2-year-old, Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish shore horrified the world, waking it to a surging refugee crisis that had gone largely unnoticed. There's been a litany of policy debates and elections since, but mostly just stifling inaction.

In fact, the refugee crisis has hit record numbers and shows little sign of improvement or hope for the most vulnerable populations in the world.


On World Refugee Day, an annual event meant to shine a light on the growing global refugee crisis and the plight of the refugee, VICE News simply laid out the UN's latest, unsparing statistics.

65.6 million

That's the number of people who were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2016, including refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), stateless persons, returnees, and asylum seekers.

Put simply: There has never been a worse refugee crisis.

22.5 million are refugees, 40.3 million are internally displaced persons, and 2.8 million are asylum seekers.

22.5 million

That's the number of refugees in the world today, an increase of more than 58 percent from 10 years ago. There have never been more refugees at any one time in recorded history.

Over 17.1 million refugees are recognized under UNHCR and an additional 5.3 million under UNRWA, the agency specifically dedicated to providing relief to Palestinian refugees in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The surge in refugees is a result of the rise in violence and conflict worldwide. While the Syrian civil war played a dominant role in the statistics, emerging conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa also contributed significantly.

"Exile is one of the defining issues of our times, not only because millions have had to flee their homes but also because refugees, regrettably, have become a crucial political issue." – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in a speech at the UN in February 2017.


That's the percentage of all refugees in 2016 who were children, many of whom were from Afghanistan, South Sudan, or Syria.


  • Syria
  • Afghanistan
  • South Sudan
  • Somalia
  • Sudan


  • Turkey
  • Pakistan
  • Lebanon
  • Iran
  • Uganda

Developing regions handled the lion's share of the world's refugee crisis in 2016, hosting 84 percent of refugees under the UNHCR. Three of the top refugee-hosting countries — the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Uganda — are formally considered the world's least developed countries by the UN's Human Development Index.

And it's only getting more dangerous…


More refugees died trying to get to these countries in 2016 than ever before.

1 in 47

That's the odds of a refugee dying on their journey from the northern coast of Africa to Italy, also known as the Central Mediterranean route. In 2016, over 181,000 migrants or refugees fled from Libya, Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria, and other war-torn African countries to reach Europe.

1 in 88

That's the odds of a refugee dying on their journey across the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe, typically used by Syrians, Afghans, and Somalis trying to reach Greece as an entry point into Europe.


United States

A majority of US registered voters (54 percent) said the US didn't have a responsibility to accept Syrian refugees, according to a Pew Research poll. Opinions are divided on bipartisan lines. 87 percent of Trump supporters believed that the US didn't have a responsibility to accept Syrian refugees, compared to 27 percent of Clinton supporters.

European Union

Europeans have a widespread opposition to further migration and in large part have begun to disagree with the responsibility of hosting. Respondents to a Chatham House poll, when asked whether "All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped," overwhelmingly said yes — 71 percent in Poland, 65 percent in Austria, and 64 percent in Belgium. In Germany, a mere 19 percent disagreed with the statement. No country had more than 32 percent disagree.


There are hundreds of international organizations working every day to help the vulnerable refugee population. Reach out to organizations such as IRC, UNICEF, or Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to find out how to donate and get involved.