Wars and persecutions: 70.8 million people uprooted by force in 2018!

Presentation of the UNHCR report for the year 2018:

70.8 million people were forcibly uprooted in 2018 due to war or persecution, according to UNHCR’s annual report “Global Trends in 2018”! This is a record figure not seen in UNHCR’s nearly 70 years of existence, knowing that this result remains “cautious”, not including all displaced Venezuelan populations – a large part of which could not be recorded.

Compared to the figures of 20 years ago, uprooted people have doubled and, according to UNHCR, represent the quantitative equivalent of a country such as Turkey or Thailand. In its 2017 report, UNHCR points out that an additional 2.3 million people have been counted.

Zaatari Camp, Jordan, 2017 ©UNHCR

This total number of “uprooted” people in the world includes three different types of status: refugees (25.9 million), i.e. people forced to flee their country because of conflict, war or persecution, internally displaced persons (41.3 million) within the same country, who represent the largest category in terms of volume, and asylum seekers (3.5 million) supported by the international community pending refugee status.

“These figures confirm once again the long-term increase in the number of people in need of protection due to war, conflict and persecution. We must strengthen our solidarity with thousands of innocent people who are forced to flee their homes every day,” said United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

Key figures for 2018:

The situation in figures:

  • In 2018, one in two refugees was a child
  • 80% of refugees live in countries neighbouring their country of origin
  • 4 out of 5 refugees are in situations of displacement that has lasted at least five years
  • 1 in 5 people are in a displacement situation that has lasted at least 20 years
  • 37,000 new uprooted people every day

How many displaced people around the world?

  • 25.9 million refugees, including:
  • 20.4 million refugees under UNHCR mandate.
  • 5.5 million Palestinian refugees under UNWRA mandate.
  • 41.3 million internally displaced people
  • 3.5 million asylum seekers


Since 2009, the number of displaced people has only increased!

Developments over a decade of forced IDPs (2009-20018):

“Once again, the trends are going in the wrong direction. New conflicts (…) are being added to the old ones,” said Filippo Grandi, Filippo Grandi, in Geneva, calling on the UN Security Council to be “more united in order to resolve conflicts.

Since 2009, the number of internally displaced persons and refugees has risen again, particularly between 2012 and 2015 with the fallout from the Syrian conflict. Colombians and Syrians are the most numerous internally displaced people. Syrians also filed the largest number of asylum applications in 2018, the majority of them in Turkey. Next come the Venezuelans, with about 350,000 people, most of whom have travelled to Colombia and Peru.

Globally, in 2009, displaced populations represented just over 0.6% of the world’s population, in 2018 they reached almost 1% of the world’s population (see diagram).

Proportion of displaced people in relation to the world population between 2009 and 2018:

Locate displaced people by country:

In total, more than two thirds, or 67% of all refugees in the world, come from only five countries: Syria with 6.7 million Syrian refugees in the world, Afghanistan (2.7 million), South, Sudan, Mynmar and finally Somalia (see diagram).

Countries of origin of most refugees in 2018:

In addition, for the fifth consecutive year, Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees in the world, with 3.7 million people. The four countries currently hosting the most people in decreasing order: Pakistan, Uganda, and at the same level with 1.1, million people hosted: Sudan and Germany.

The issue of statelessness?


Rohingya Refugee Camp in Bangladesh, 2019 ©SolidaritesInternational

Another population of concern to UNHCR, although it remains smaller than refugees, and other types of displaced persons: stateless persons. A stateless person is, according to the New York Convention of 28 September 1954, “any person who is not considered by any State as its national under the laws of that State”. This problem mainly concerns the Rohingya in Myanmar who are denied Burmese nationality and Ivorian populations from northern Côte d’Ivoire (see Map).

Find the full report: “UNHCR Global Trends in 2018”.

By Alain Boinet and Sarah Boisson