International and National Refugee Profile

International and National Refugee Profile

At the end of 2017, the global refugee population, including 5.4 million Palestine refugees under UNHCR’s mandate, was 25.4 million – the highest known total to date and an increase of 2.9 million from 2016. The number of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate increased for the sixth year in a row, to a total population at the end of the year just shy of 20 million. Unless otherwise stated, all references to refugees in this report refer to those under UNHCR’s mandate.[1]

The refugee population in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 1.1 million (22 per cent) during 2017, mainly due to the crisis in South Sudan, from where more than 1 million people fled primarily to Sudan and Uganda. With 6.3 million refugees, this region hosted almost one-third of the world’s refugee population.

At year-end, Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees (increasing during the year to 3.5 million), while other countries on the European continent hosted 2.6 million. Meanwhile, the number of refugees in the Middle East and North Africa remained fairly constant at 2.7 million by end-2017. The Americas region hosted 644,200 refugees at the end of 2017, a 6 per cent decline from the previous year.[2]

The Syrian people continued to bear the brunt of the civil war, and Syria remained the main country of origin of refugees at the end of 2017. More than 6.3 million people have been forced to flee the country, accounting for almost one-third of the world’s total refugee population. There was a 14 per cent increase in the total number of Syrian refugees in 2017.

Currently, Syrian refugees have found asylum in 125 countries throughout the world, with the majority being hosted by Turkey (3,424,200). At the end of 2017, large populations of refugees from Syria were also residing in Lebanon (992,100), Jordan (653,000), Germany (496,700), Iraq (247,100), Egypt (126,700), Sweden (103,600), Austria (43,900), and the Netherlands (30,900)

The second-largest population of refugees in 2017 was from Afghanistan, whose refugee population grew by 5 per cent to 2.6 million people by end-2017, due mainly to births and a large number of positive decisions granting protection to asylum-seekers in Germany. Afghan refugees were mostly living in Pakistan (1,392,600), where a small increase in the population was due to births outnumbering those who returned to Afghanistan or were resettled. Altogether, refugees from Afghanistan were reported in 93 countries including the Islamic Republic of Iran (951,100), Germany (104,400), and Austria (26,900).

The largest increase during 2017 was of refugees from South Sudan, the number of which rose from 1.4 million at the beginning of the year to 2.4 million at the end. The majority of South Sudanese refugees resided in Uganda (1,037,400), Sudan (772,700), Ethiopia (421,400), Kenya (111,500), and the DRC (89,000). South Sudan remained the third major country of origin of refugees in 2017.

Refugees originating from Myanmar represented the fourth-largest population group by country of origin, more than doubling in number from less than half a million to 1.2 million by the end of 2017. The majority of refugees from Myanmar at the end of the year were hosted by Bangladesh (932,200). Other countries with sizable populations of Myanmar refugees were Thailand (100,000), Malaysia (98,000), and India (18,100).

Although Somalia was the fifth-largest source country of refugees in the world in 2017, the number of Somali refugees declined slightly over the year (3 per cent) to 986,400 people. Kenya (281,700), Yemen (255,900), and Ethiopia (253,800) were the main host countries of Somali refugees, while smaller groups resided in South Africa (27,000), Uganda (25,000), and Sweden (22,000).

The refugee population from Sudan increased slightly from 650,400 at the beginning of the year to 694,600 at the end, making Sudan the sixth-largest country of origin of the world’s refugees. The majority of refugees from Sudan were hosted in Chad (324,300), South Sudan (262,000), and Ethiopia (43,900).

The number of refugees from the DRC increased by 16 per cent, from 537,500 to 620,800, with many new arrivals in Uganda and Angola in 2017. Refugees from the DRC received protection mainly in the neigbouring countries of Uganda (226,200), Rwanda (82,800), Burundi (61,900), the United Republic of Tanzania (Tanzania) (56,900), Angola (38,500), Zambia (34,900), South Sudan (15,000), and the Republic of Congo (Congo) (12,300).

Other countries that provided asylum were South Africa (26,000), France (15,700), and Kenya (13,900). Refugees originating from the Central African Republic increased by 11 per cent, from 490,900 to 545,500, with most new arrivals finding protection in the DRC and Cameroon. At year-end, refugees from the Central African Republic mostly resided in Cameroon (248,800), the DRC (181,900), Chad (76,700), and Congo (26,400).

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The ninth-largest refugee population in 2017 originated from Eritrea, with 486,200 people forcibly displaced. The main host countries of Eritrean refugees were Ethiopia (164,600), Sudan (108,200), Germany (49,300), Switzerland (30,900), Sweden (27,200), and Israel (22,000). At the end of 2017, 439,300 refugees from Burundi were displaced outside their country, making it the 10th-largest source country of refugees.

The main countries providing protection to Burundian refugees were Tanzania (251,200), Rwanda (88,200), the DRC (44,500), and Uganda (38,200). When combined, refugees from the 10 most common countries of origin – nine of which are least developed countries[3] accounted for 82 per cent (16.3 million) of the world’s total refugee population under UNHCR’s mandate. Over two-thirds of the world’s refugees originated from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. Also, Nigerian refugees are currently (239,000)[4]


[1] UNHCR > Global trends 2017


[3] accessed 12 April 2019

[4] accessed 12 April 2019

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