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New UNHCR data points to record number of worldwide refugees in 2022 driven largely by the war in Ukraine

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June 20 is World Refugee Day. According to the newly released UNHCR data and World Bank estimates, the number of refugees globally rose to 35.3 million in 2022, a steep increase from 27.1 million in 2021. This represents a new record since World War II. The significant 8.2 million increase is mostly attributable to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the country seeking international protection.


Steep increase of eight million refugees in 2022 driven mostly by Ukrainian refugees

Note: Figures include refugees under UNHCR’s mandate only. Therefore, the total in the chart is lower than the 35.3 million mentioned above.
Source: UNHCR Refugee Data Finder and World Development Indicators (SM.POP.REFG.OR)


The Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has triggered the largest displacement crisis in Europe since World War II and generated one of the largest number of refugees in the world in 2022. Women and children account for 86% of Ukrainian refugees.


Due to the war, the number of Ukrainian refugees skyrocketed from 28,000 in 2021 to 5.7 million in 2022. After the Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine is now the second-ranked country globally from which more refugees originate.

Source: UNHCR Refugee Data Finder and World Development Indicators (SM.POP.REFG.OR)


The countries that produced the largest numbers of refugees include (in order): the Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar. In 2022, more than half of the world’s refugees originated from these five countries. Ukraine and Afghanistan excepted, the other three countries did not produce major refugee outflows in 2022 but remain longstanding situations. In these countries, the proportion of the population who became refugees is sizable. In Syria, 1 in 4 persons fled from the country and became a refugee; for South Sudan it was 1 in 6 persons, for Ukraine it was 1 in 7 persons while Afghanistan had 1 in 8. Other areas include 1 in 7 in Western Sahara, 1 in 8 in Eritrea and 1 in 9 in the Central African Republic.


In Ukraine, 1 in 7 persons became refugees in 2022

Source: UNHCR Refugee Data Finder and United Nations World Population Prospects 2022 Revision


The majority of refugees flee to countries neighboring their countries of origin. Many Ukrainian refugees fled to countries such as the Russian Federation, Poland, Germany, Czechia and Italy.

Timely, reliable data on forced displacement is critical for the development of policies and programs in hosting countries and to inform the response of the international community. The World Bank and the World Bank-UNHCR Joint Data Center (JDC) on Forced Displacement are working closely with the Expert Group on Refugee, IDP and Statelessness Statistics (EGRISS), under the mandate of the UN Statistical Commission, to strengthen the quality and availability of official statistics on forced displacement and statelessness.

According to the group’s current mandate (2020-2024), these efforts are focused primarily on supporting national bureaus of statistics and their partners to implement the international recommendations on refugee (IRRS) and IDP (IRIS) statistics, as well as the development of the International Recommendations on Statelessness Statistics (IROSS), which were successfully endorsed at the 54th session of the UNSC in 2023. Further details on all of these topics and more can be found in the recently released EGRISS Annual Report 2022 and on the EGRISS website, which is regularly updated. (Our earlier blogs about World Bank engagement through the EGRISS are available here: blog from 2018, blog from 2021 and blog from 2022.)

The World Bank’s World Development Report 2023 (WDR 2023) “Migration, Refugees and Societies” brings a fresh perspective on cross border movements and ways to maximize such movements for prosperity and development. About 2.3 percent of the world’s population – 184 million people, including the millions of refugees – live outside of their country of nationality[1]. At least three out of four refugees live in low- and middle-income countries.  

WDR 2023 proposes an integrated framework to benefit from these movements for both the countries that people are leaving from and the ones they are going to. It is all about matching skills with the labor market needs in the countries that people move to in order to create policies that work for everyone.

The report also emphasizes the importance of managing refugee situations in a sustainable way, both financially and socially. Because refugees often move for safety, they might not end up in places where their skills are in demand, which can be a burden on the host country. But with policies that encourage mobility, self-reliance, and inclusion, we can reduce those costs and make sure everyone benefits.

The World Bank is already putting these ideas into practice in its development approach to forced displacement. This approach complements the emergency relief activities of humanitarian organizations, focuses on addressing longer-term, social and economic challenges – especially jobs and education – and benefits both the forcibly displaced and their hosts.

[1] World Development Report (2023) counted Venezuelans in need of international protection as refugees, whereas UNHCR’s database categorizes them as other people in need of international protection, so that the global number of refugees in the World Development Report is higher than the one in this blog.


Emi Suzuki

Demographer, Development Data Group, World Bank

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