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Facts and Figures about Refugees

Facts and figures are vital to UNHCR for planning and preparedness. UNHCR’s full-time statisticians keep track of the number of people of concern to the Agency. These figures are released every June in the annual Global Trends report, while the Norwegian Refugee Council releases annual global figures for internally displaced people.

Number of forcibly displaced worldwide: 45.2 million

Number of Refugees

There were 15.4 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2012, 10.5 million under the mandate of UNHCR, down slightly from the previous year.

The other 4.9 million Palestinian refugees are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

During the year, conflict and persecution forced an average of 23,000 persons per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere, either within the borders of their countries or in other countries.

Developing countries host over four fifths (80%) of the world’s refugees, compared to 70% ten years ago.

In 2012, the country hosting the largest number of refugees remained Pakistan, with 1.6 million refugees. Afghanistan retained the position as the biggest source country, a position it has held for 32 years. On average, one out of every four refugees worldwide is Afghan, with 95% located in Pakistan or Iran. 

Last year, 46% of refugees were under 18 years old. This was in line with 2012 but higher than a few years ago. Refugee women and girls accounted for 48% of the refugee population.

An estimated 7.6 million people were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution, including 1.1 million new refugees- the highest number of new arrivals in one year since 1999. 

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

About 28.8 million people were forcibly uprooted people and displaced within their own country and are known as internally displaced people (IDPs).

This equates to a new refugee or internally displaced person every 4.1 seconds

With some 4 million internally displaced people registered by the government of 1997, Colombia continued to face a large displacement situation. Escalating conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic displaced an estimated two million within the country, affecting an estimated four million by the end of the year.

Renewed fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo displaced more than a million people, bringing the total number of IDPs in the country to 2.7 million. Somalia (1.4 million) and Iraq (1.3 million).

War in Mali in 2012 displaced more than 227,000 people within the country. 


Over 893,700 people submitted applications for asylum in 2012. UNHCR offices registered and processed 13 per cent of these claims.

With an estimated 70,400 asylum claims, the United States of America was the largest recipient of new individual applications, followed by Germany (64,500), South Africa (61,500) and France (55,100). 

Find out about asylum in the UK.

Stateless People

Statelessness refers to the condition of an individual who is not considered a national by any state. Although stateless people may sometimes also be refugees, the two categories are distinct and both groups are of concern to UNHCR. 

It’s almost impossible to determine the true number of stateless people. UNHCR estimates that statelessness affected up to at least 10 million people by the end of 2012. However, data captured by governments and communicated to UNHCR were limited to 3.3 million stateless individuals in 72 countries

(Source: 2012 Global Trends Report)

For further information, please see the UNHCR 2012 Global Trends Report.


Annual budget figures are compiled by the Donor Relations and Resource Mobilisation service, while the Division of Human Resources Management keeps details on personnel.

UNHCR regular staff members: 6,696

Staff members in the field: 5,827

Number of countries in which UNHCR is present: 125


(Source: 2011 Global Report)

Download pdf of key facts and figures relating to refugees


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Key Facts and Figures

How many refugees are there in the world? What are IDPs? In how many countries is UNHCR present?

What is the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker? How many refugees are there in the UK?


Asylum in the UK

What is the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker? How many refugees are there in the UK?

Global Trends Report 2011


2012 Global Trends Report

More people are refugees or internally displaced than at any time since 1994, with the crisis in Syria having emerged as a major new factor in global displacement. See the facts here.