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Where Do Refugees Come From?

The international community will celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20th, 2018. It is an opportunity to reflect on the current refugee crisis that we are facing around the globe. Millions of people are displaced due to conflict and hardship. They have lost their homes and need support to find their place in new societies. Sometimes, we forget why and how refugees end up scattered across international borders. We already discussed who a refugee is. Today, let’s take a look at where they come from and the reasons they flee their homes.

The Refugee Crisis in Numbers

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates a total of 65.8 million forcibly displaced people worldwide today—nearly the same as the population of France. More than 22 million are registered, refugees. Most of them have fled their homes due to conflict, war, and fearing for their lives. Out of concern for their safety, they’re unable to return.

In some cases, natural disasters have led them to seek refuge elsewhere. According to statistics, the two regions that produce the most refugees are the Arab states and Sub-Saharan Africa. We will look at the five countries where most refugees come from. Remember, however, that these are sheer numbers. Other countries also produce large quantities of refugees, especially when compared to their total population. Their situations should not be forgotten.

Where Do Refugees Come From?

It is important to note that a refugee is different from other migrants. Refugees are granted rights under international law once their status is recognized. As an example, their status means that they cannot be deported to their country of origin. So where do refugees come from?


Number of refugees: 5,524,333

The refugee crisis in Syria is the biggest the world has seen. 5.5 million people have fled the country, while another 6 million are internally displaced. This makes up nearly half of the country’s population. The reason for this mass exodus is the brutal civil war, which broke out in March 2011 and rages on still. Today, 3.3 million Syrian refugees are settled in Turkey, and more than 1 million are in Lebanon. Only about 8% are living in refugee camps. There is a strong need for continued support of Syrian refugees around the world.

South Sudan

Number of refugees: 2,590,696

South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. However, the country has not been able to find stability. Before this, Sudan faced twenty years of civil war. Upon independence, conflict among ethnic groups living within the new South Sudanese borders increased. To save their lives and their families, many have fled South Sudan. Refugees have mainly settled in bordering Ethiopia, Sudan, and Uganda. Of the 2.5 million, about 10% call Bidi bidi Refugee Camp in Uganda their home.


Number of refugees: 2,501,410

The Afghan refugee crisis goes as far back as 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Since then, the country has seen recurring conflict, from civil war to foreign intervention. Many refugees began to return to their homes over the past few years. However, 2.5 million are still living abroad. Most are settled in Pakistan. Despite this, and due to the lack of stability and the continued violence in Afghanistan, many refugees have had to flee more than once. They return home, only to be faced with leaving again to seek refuge.


Number of refugees: 1,012,277

Another country with a long history of violence, more than a million refugees come from Somalia. First, they fled the 25-year civil war. The country has since started to recuperate. However, in 2011 it was hit by extreme drought and famine. As a result, many more refugees left Somalia. Today, some are in the process of voluntarily returning home. A large portion of Somalian refugees live in one of the largest refugee camps in the world: the Dadaab Refugee Complex in Kenya.


Number of refugees: 905,000

Today, Kutupalong is the largest refugee camp in the world. Its population swelled rapidly since the mass exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar since August 2017. Nearly 1 million people have crossed the border in about ten months, due to a reported escalation in violence. The Rohingya is a Muslim minority living in the Buddhist majority of Myanmar. They have faced discrimination and a lack of rights to citizenship for decades. Since August, reports include villages set on fire, systematic murder, and rape. As a result, many have settled in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh.

Fortunately, the well-being of refugees is a significant issue for multiple compassionate organizations. Here’s a list of NGO’s that help refugees.

Everything You Need to Know about Refugees

Humanitarians continuously work hard to help and protect refugees. Even if their primary mission is different, refugees are always supported by compassionate people. Today we talked about NGOs assisting refugees to, but there are many more aspects that humanitarians are involved in when they are helping refugees. Here you can take a closer look at everything you need to know about refugees and the help they receive.

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