There Are 45.2 Million Refugees Globally, The Highest In Nearly Two Decades

Ongoing conflicts and persecution meant that 45.2 million people were displaced from their homes last year

The ongoing Syrian conflict has driven at last 725,000 people from their country. Photo: Safa Kutlu

In the past year alone, 7.6 million people were driven from their homes due to “conflict or persecution,” says a new report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the highest number of new refugees in more than a decade. The jump in people seeking shelter—roughly 23,000 people each day—adds to an upward trend in displacement that has gone on for at least the past decade.

The surge in displaced people has been part of a long-term upward trend. Photo: UNHCR

The surge in people fleeing their homes, says the Guardian, was driven by fighting in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali. According to the Associated Press, the 45.2 million known displaced people worldwide “are the highest numbers since 1994, when people fled genocide in Rwanda and bloodshed in former Yugoslavia.”

Technically, not all 45.2 million people are refugees—differing definitions make it a bit tricky. By the UN’s definitions, a refugee is someone who leaves their country, while someone who is “internally displaced” is essentially a refugee within their own country. An asylum seeker, meanwhile, is a would-be refugee who hasn’t yet been deemed a refugee by the relevant authorities. Of the 45.2 million displaced people worldwide, says the Guardian, 15.4 million are refugees, 28.8 million are internally displaced, and 937,000 are asylum seekers.


Though the ongoing Syrian conflict is driving millions to flee both within their country and to elsewhere, the UN report shows that many more people are still fleeing Afghanistan and Somalia.

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