Facts and Figures about Refugees

Facts and Figures about Refugees

Facts and figures are vital to UNHCR for planning and preparedness. UNHCR’s full-time statisticians keep track of the number of people of concern to the Agency. These figures are released every June in the annual Global Trends report.

Global forced displacement has increased in 2015, with more people forced from their homes by war, conflict and persecution since World War II. By the end of the year, 65.3 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide. This is 5.8 million more than the previous year (59.5 million).

This figure of 65.3 million includes:

16.1 million refugees registered under UNHCR's mandate

5.2 million Palestinian refugees registered by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency)

Where do the world's refugees come from?

The Syrian Arab Republic is the largest source country of refugees with a total refugee population of 4.9 million at the end 2015. Syrians remained the main group of asylum-seekers worldwide, with 373,700 new asylum applications registered during 2015.

Afghanistan (2.7 million) has remained the second-largest source country for refugees with Somalia (1.1 million) placing both as the third largest source country worldwide and as the largest refugee producing country in Sub-Saharan Africa.

South Sudan is the fourth-largest source country of refugees worldwide (800,000 by the end of 2015).

Who hosts the world's refugees?

For the second consecutive year, Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees worldwide, with 2.5 million people. As such, Turkey has overtaken Pakistan as the country which hosts the largest refugee population within its territory in the world. Pakistan currently hosts 1.6 million refugees, nearly all of whom are from Afghanistan.

Lebanon remains the third-largest refugee hosting country in the world with 1.1 million refugees falling within the mandate of UNHCR. As of the end 2015, there are 183 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants in Lebanon.


Some 2.45 million individual applications for asylum or refugee status were submitted to States or UNHCR in 174 countries or territories in 2015. This number represents an increase of about 48 per cent compared to 2014 (1.66 million applications).

The United States of America was the second-largest host of new asylum-seekers in 2015 with 172,700 claims, a 42 per cent increase from 2014. More than half of all asylum claims in the U.S. were lodged by nationals of 4 countries (Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico), a figure which reflects the ongoing and deteriorating situation as a result of violence generated by organized crime, gang activity and the activities of drug cartels in certain parts of the region.

Seeking Asylum in Europe

Germany was the largest single recipient of new asylum applications, with 441,900 registered during 2015. This is more than double the number registered a year earlier (173,100) and the eighth consecutive increase for Germany.

The greatest number of applications was received from individuals originating from the Syrian Arab Republic.

As of the end of  2015, Germany 441,900) and Sweden (156,400) have the largest backlog of registered asylum applications within the EU.

The Russian Federation was the fourth largest single recipient of new asylum claims during 2015 worldwide with 152,500 asylum applications.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

The total population of IDPs was an estimated 40.8 million by the end of 2015, the highest figure on record and an increase of 2.6 million over the number reported a year ago.

In 2015, 8.6 million people were newly displaced within the borders of their own countries by armed conflict, generalized violence, and human rights violations.

Yemen reported the largest number of newly displaced persons (over 2.5 million), followed by Iraq ((808,700), Ukraine (800,000), Sudan (639,500), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (637,900), and Afghanistan (492,600).

The estimated total number of IDPs in the Syrian Arab Republic declined from 7.6 million in 2014 to 6.6 million in 2015, partly due to some displaced people crossing international borders to seek protection outside the country. The Syrian Arab Republic therefore had the second largest IDP population.

In Colombia, the total number of IDPs rose to 6.9 million at the end of 2015, compared to 6.0 million reported during 2014.

On a positive note, some 2.3 million IDPs were able to return to their habitual places of residence during 2015, compared to 1.8 million during 2014; of these, 1.4 million received UNHCR’s assistance.


Statelessness refers to the condition of an individual who is not considered a national by any state. Although stateless people may sometimes also be refugees, the two categories are distinct and both groups are of concern to UNHCR.

The very nature of statelessness makes it difficult to collect statistics accurately and to therefore determine exactly the numbers affected by the phenomenon. UNHCR estimates that there are at least 10 million stateless persons worldwide, while the current statistical data cover 3.7 million persons in 78 countries or territories.

This is an increase on the figures for the corresponding period in 2014 which stood at 3.5 million individuals. This increase is mainly as a result of the newly reported figure of around 300,000 persons in Zimbabwe whose nationality status has been negatively affected by changes in the country’s nationality laws.

Refugee Returns

During 2015, only 201,400 refugees returned to their countries of origin with the majority (115,800 or 57%) receiving UNHCR assistance.

This is a significant increase compared to 2014, when 126,000 refugees returned, but it is still below the number of returned refugees reported in 2013 (414,600).

Afghanistan (61,400), Sudan (39,500), Somalia (32,300), the Central African Republic (21,600), and Côte d’Ivoire (12,200). These five nationalities combined accounted for 83 per cent  of the total number of refugees who returned home during 2015.

For more information see:

UNHCR Global Trends Report 2015: click here

UNHCR Mid-Year Trends Report 2015: click here

UNHCR Asylum Trends Report 2014: click here

UNHCR Data-Bank: click here