Fifty-one million two hundred thousand. That is the present number of men, women and children who, according to the United Nations, are forced to live in a place foreign to them. Of this number of people, 16,7 million are refugees and an even more alarmingly 33,3 million persons are internally displaced. If all these people were to form a nation, they would constitute the 26th largest country in the world.
The data displayed in the map above has been collected by UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which has the most complete statistics on this subject. In addition, the map displays the figures of six population categories for each country studied by UNHCR, namely:
- – Refugees who are outside their country of origin or residence and cannot leave or do not want to return, fearing persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or their political opinions.
- Internally displaced people who were forced to leave their homes for similar reasons as refugees, but who have stayed within the borders of their own country.
- Asylum seekers who have submitted an asylum claim to the responsible authorities and are waiting for a decision on their application.
Returnees who were of concern to UNHCR while they were out of their home country or region and continue being of concern to it after having returned to their country/region of origin.
- Stateless people who are not considered as nationals by any state based on their rules of nationality or their particular constitution.
In 25 years of gathering statistics on refugees, there have never been as many refugees or displaced people as today. As shown in the diagram below, the number of refugees remained more or less stable over the years, while the number of internally displaced people has skyrocketed. The countries that have been affected most by this development are:
- Syria, where over three years of civil war have resulted in more internally displaced people within the Arab republic itself (6,52 million) than refugees (2,47 million).
- Columbia, where continuous guerilla warfare between armed revolutionary forces and the government has resulted in an upsurge of migration within Columbian territory (5,37 million internally displaced people in total; an increase of 115,000 just in the year 2013).
- African countries plagued by ancient conflicts, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (2,96 million internally displaced), Sudan and South Sudan (respectively 1,87 and 0,33 million), Somalia (1,13 million) or more recently the Central African Republic (894,400 displaced) and Mali (254,800).