The world now has a population of 70.8 million forcibly displaced people
Over the past decade, the global population of forcibly displaced people grew substantially from 43.3 million in 2009 to 70.8 million in 2018, reaching a record high [Figure 1].6 Most of this increase was between 2012 and 2015, driven mainly by the Syrian conflict. But conflicts in other areas also contributed to this rise, including in the Middle East such as in Iraq and Yemen, parts of sub-Saharan Africa such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, as well as the massive flow of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh at the end of 2017.
Of particular note in 2018 was the increase in the number of displaced people due to internal displacement in Ethiopia and new asylum claims from people fleeing the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The proportion of the world’s population who were displaced also continued to rise as the increase in the world’s forcibly displaced population outstripped global population growth. In 2017 this figure was 1 out of every 110 people but in 2018 it stood at 1 out of every 108 people.7 A decade ago, by comparison, this stood at about 1 in 160 people [Figure 2]. Overall, the refugee population under UNHCR’s mandate has nearly doubled since 2012.
Large numbers of people were on the move in 2018. During the year, 13.6 million people were newly displaced, including 2.8 million who sought protection abroad (as new asylum-seekers or newly registered refugees)8 and 10.8 million who were forced to flee but remained in their own countries.9 These 13.6 million new displacements equated to an average rate of 37,000 people being newly displaced every day of 2018 [Figure 3].
Still, many others returned to their countries or areas of origin to try to rebuild their lives, including 2.3 million internally displaced people and nearly 600,000 refugees.
At 1,560,800, Ethiopians made up the largest newly displaced population during the year, 98 per cent of them within their country. This increase more than doubled the existing internally displaced population in the country.
Syrians were the next largest newly displaced population, with 889,400 people during 2018. Of these, 632,700 were newly displaced (or newly registered) outside the country,10 while the remainder were internally displaced. Nigeria also had a high number of newly displaced people with 661,800, of which an estimated 581,800 were displaced within the country’s borders.
Among those newly displaced across borders (or newly registered), the vast majority remained close to home. Over half a million new refugee registrations and asylum applications originated from the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) in 2018, the majority in Turkey [Figure 4], representing both newly arriving individuals and those already in the country for a period of time prior to the time of registration. Venezuelans accounted for the second largest flow of new international displacements in 2018, with 341,800 new asylum applications (see page 24 for more details on the Venezuela situation). South Sudanese accounted for the next largest refugee and asylum-seeker flow, mainly to Sudan and Uganda, followed by such flows from DRC, also mainly to Uganda.
At the end of 2018, Syrians continued to be the largest forcibly displaced population, with 13.0 million people living in displacement, including 6,654,000 refugees, 6,184,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) and 140,000 asylumseekers. Colombians were the second largest group, with 8.0 million forcibly displaced, most of them (98 per cent) inside their country at the end of 2018.11 A total of 5.4 million Congolese from DRC were also forcibly displaced, of whom 4,517,000 were IDPs and 854,000 were refugees or asylumseekers.
Other large displaced populations at the end of 2018 – those with over 2.0 million people displaced, either internally or as refugees or asylum-seekers – were from Afghanistan (5.1 million), South Sudan (4.2 million), Somalia (3.7 million), Ethiopia (2.8 million), Sudan (2.7 million),
Nigeria (2.5 million), Iraq (2.4 million) and Yemen (2.2 million).
The situation in Cameroon was complex as it was both a source country and host country of refugees and asylum-seekers. In addition, it was confronted with multiple internal displacements in 2018. In total, there were 45,100 Cameroonian refugees globally at the end of 2018; they were mainly hosted by Nigeria (32,800), compared with less than 100 in that country at the beginning of the year. This is in addition to 668,500 IDPs, mainly within the South, North West and the Far North regions of Cameroon. At the same time, Cameroon hosted 380,300 refugees, mainly from the Central African Republic (CAR) (275,700) and Nigeria (102,300).
Without the protection of family, unaccompanied and separated children are often at risk of exploitation and abuse. A key issue is the lack of information and data regarding this population. The number of such children reported as having applied for asylum during 2018 was 27,600 during the year. At the end of 2018, 111,000 unaccompanied and separated children were reported among the refugee population.12 These figures are underestimates due to the limited number of countries reporting data.
Returns continued to account for a small proportion of the displaced population and did not offset new displacements. Some 593,800 refugees returned to their countries of origin in 2018 compared with 667,400 in 2017, less than 3 per cent of the refugee population. In addition, 2.3 million IDPs returned in 2018, compared with 4.2 million in 2017. In some cases, refugees and IDPs went back to situations where conditions did not permit safe and sustainable returns. Resettlement provided a solution for close to 92,400 refugees.
In 2018, the Expert Group on Refugee and IDP Statistics (EGRIS) presented the results of its work at the 49th session of the UN Statistical Commission. Established in 2016 by the Commission, EGRIS is tasked with addressing challenges associated with the collection, compilation and dissemination of statistics on refugees, asylum-seekers and IDPs, including the lack of consistent terminology and difficulties in comparing statistics internationally.
– endorsed the International Recommendations on Refugee Statistics;
– endorsed the Technical Report on Statistics of IDPs and supported the proposal to upgrade this work to develop formal recommendations; and
– reaffirmed the mandate to develop a compiler’s manual on refugee and IDP statistics to provide hands-on guidance for the recommendations.
In addition to the 40 countries that took part in the EGRIS and those that had also contributed through the global consultations in 2017, several country representatives took the floor at the Statistical Commission to welcome this work.
Certain elements of the work received particular support such as focusing on the importance of coordination and the central role of national statistical offices, as well as including the potential of different data sources and methodologies within the recommendations.