UNHCR Report Reveals Startling Facts About Global Refugee Crisis

GENEVA – “Wars, other violence, and persecution drove worldwide forced displacement to a new high in 2017 for the fifth year in a row, according to UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, released on 19 June 2018. The report showed that 68.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2017. Overwhelmingly it is developing countries that are most affected.” – United Nations High Council on Refugees

UNHCR Global Trends 2017 Report Video ©UNHCR. Used by permission

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees released its latest annual report on 19 June 2018, on the eve of World Refugee Day. The information in the report is so startling, much of it is difficult for us to comprehend.

For instance, in 2017 alone, 2.9 million people became refugees. That’s not the total number of refugees. It’s the increase of people in that category in the past year, which is, by the way, the largest single-year increase in the history of the UNHCR. The 2017 additions bring the worldwide total of displaced persons to 68.5 million.

(Note: Some media are incorrectly reporting this number as asylum seekers. Please read the Missions Box article, “Understanding the Refugee Crisis on World Refugee Day,” where we define the differences between displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons.)

Here, conveniently bullet-pointed for easier observation, are several current heart-rending facts that should draw our heart and prayers toward the needs of these desperate people.

  • One out of every 110 people in the world has been displaced.
  • The current rate of displacement is one person every two seconds.
  • More than 2.6 million Syrians have been displaced, the largest number from any single nation in the world.
  • More than 20% of all refugees identify as Palestinian.
  • More than 66% of all refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia.
  • Eighty percent live in neighboring countries, most of which are in no position to either prevent their influx or to provide for their needs.
  • Although global attention is focused on the plight of refugees living in temporary camps (rightfully so), most refugees actually live in heavily-populated urban areas.
  • Over half of all displaced persons are children, many of whom are unaccompanied.
  • About 3.1 million actual asylum-seekers were waiting for their petitions to be processed at the end of 2017.
  • Only slightly more than 100,000 refugees were permanently resettled in 2017.

Eighty-seven percent of the staff of the UNHCR work in field areas “assisting the most vulnerable victims of displacement.

We must remember that “No one becomes a refugee by choice.” Only by the grace of God are we not among their number.


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  • Video ©UNHCR. Used by permission.