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Newly released data show refugee numbers in 2021 are the highest ever: An update

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June 20 is World Refugee Day. The number of refugees globally rose to 27.1 million in 2021, up from 26.4 million in 2020,  setting a new record, according to the newly released UNHCR Global Trends report, and World Bank estimates. The number of people seeking international protection outside of their country of origin has increased 78% since 2011. It is important to note that the newly released data covers trends up to the end of 2021, which does not include the current situation around Ukraine.

In 2021, countries producing the largest numbers of refugees include (in order) the Syrian Arab Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Congo DR - more than half (52%) of the world’s refugees came from these five countries. 

Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East & North Africa produce more than half (57%) of the world's refugees 

Where do these refugees go? The majority of them flee to countries neighboring their countries of origin.

About half of the world’s 27.1 million refugees are hosted by just six countries/territories—Türkiye, Jordan, West Bank and Gaza, Uganda, Pakistan, and Lebanon 

The share rises to nearly 75% if the next eight refugee-hosting countries are included: Lebanon, Germany, Sudan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Iran, Syria, Chad and Congo DR. Among the regions of the world, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Central Asia, and South Asia host most (95%) of the refugees. The majority (86%) of hosts are low- and middle-income countries while high income countries host just 14% of world’s refugees. This new data will become available soon in the World Development Indicators database.

Timely, reliable data 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. In recent years, significant momentum has grown with over 100 country and regional-level activities identified. This week, partners will meet in Copenhagen to work together to help finalize the international recommendations on statelessness statistics (IROSS). Further details on all of these topics can be found in the recently released Annual Report 2020-2021 and on the EGRISS website, which is regularly updated. Our earlier blogs about World Bank engagement through the EGRISS are available here: blog 1 and blog 2.



Emi Suzuki

Demographer, Development Data Group, World Bank

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