Data

Refugee population by country or territory of origin

What you should know about this indicator

Refugees are people who are recognized as refugees under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, people recognized as refugees in accordance with the UNHCR statute, people granted refugee-like humanitarian status, and people provided temporary protection. Asylum seekers--people who have applied for asylum or refugee status and who have not yet received a decision or who are registered as asylum seekers--are excluded. Palestinian refugees are people (and their descendants) whose residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who lost their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. Country of origin generally refers to the nationality or country of citizenship of a claimant.

Limitations and exceptions: There are difficulties in collecting accurate statistics on refugees. Many refugees may not be aware of the need to register or may choose not to do so, and administrative records tend to overestimate the number of refugees because it is easier to register than to de-register. In addition, most industrialized countries lack a refugee register and are thus not in a position to provide accurate information on the number of refugees residing in their country. Many countries have registries that are only maintained at the local level, so the data is not centralized.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) collects and maintains data on refugees, except for Palestinian refugees residing in areas under the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Registration is voluntary, and estimates by the UNRWA are not an accurate count of the Palestinian refugee population. The data shows estimates of refugees collected by the UNHCR, complemented by estimates of Palestinian refugees under the UNRWA mandate. Thus, the aggregates differ from those published by the UNHCR.

Statistics concerning the former USSR have been reported under the Russian Federation, those concerning the former Czechoslovakia have been reported under the Czech Republic and those concerning the former Yugoslavia and 'Serbia and Montenegro' have been reported under Serbia. Since 2006, separate statistics are available for Serbia and for Montenegro. Prior to 2006, no separate statistics are available and both countries have been reported under Serbia.

Statistical concept and methodology: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) collects and maintains data on refugees in their Statistical Online Population Database. The refugee data does not include Palestinian refugees residing in areas under the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). However, the Palestinian refugees living outside the UNRWA areas of operation do fall under the responsibility of UNHCR and are thus included in the Statistical Online Population Database.

Refugees are an important part of migrant stock. The refugee data refer to people who have crossed an international border to find sanctuary and have been granted refugee or refugee-like status or temporary protection. There are three main providers of refugee data: governmental agencies, UNHCR field offices and NGOs. Registrations, together with other sources - including estimates and surveys - are the main sources of refugee data. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries, based on recognition of asylum-seekers. Prior to 2007, resettled refugees were included in these estimates.

Up to and including 2006, to ensure that the refugee population in countries that lack a refugee registry is reflected in the global statistics, the number of refugees was estimated by UNHCR based on the arrival of refugees through resettlement programmes and the individual recognition of refugees over a 10-year (Europe and, since 2006, the United States) or 5-year (the United States before 2006, Canada and Oceania) period. Starting with the 2007 data, the cut-off period has been harmonized and now covers a 10-year period for Europe and non-European countries. Resettled refugees, however, are excluded from the refugee estimates in all countries.

The 2007-2011 refugee population category includes people in a refugee-like situation, most of who were previously included in the Others of concern group. This sub-category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are outside their country or territory of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.

Asylum seekers - people who have applied for asylum or refugee status and who have not yet received a decision or who are registered as asylum seekers - and internally displaced people - who are often confused with refugees - are not included in the data. Unlike refugees, internally displaced people remain under the protection of their own government, even if their reason for fleeing was similar to that of refugees.

Palestinian refugees are people (and their descendants) whose residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who lost their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.

Notes from original source: The refugee population category from 2007 onwards also includes people in a refugee-like situation, most of who were previously included in the Others of concern group. This sub-category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are outside their country or territory of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.

Statistics concerning the former USSR have been reported under the Russian Federation, those concerning the former Czechoslovakia have been reported under the Czech Republic and those concerning the former Yugoslavia and 'Serbia and Montenegro' have been reported under Serbia. Since 2006, separate statistics are available for Serbia and for Montenegro. Prior to 2006, no separate statistics are available and both countries have been reported under Serbia.

Source
Multiple sources compiled by World Bank (2024) – processed by Our World in Data
Last updated
May 20, 2024
Next expected update
May 2025
Date range
1960–2022

Sources and processing

This data is based on the following sources

The World Development Indicators (WDI) is the primary World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially-recognized international sources. It presents the most current and accurate global development data available, and includes national, regional and global estimates.

Retrieved on
May 20, 2024
Citation
This is the citation of the original data obtained from the source, prior to any processing or adaptation by Our World in Data. To cite data downloaded from this page, please use the suggested citation given in Reuse This Work below.
World Bank's World Development Indicators (WDI).

How we process data at Our World in Data

All data and visualizations on Our World in Data rely on data sourced from one or several original data providers. Preparing this original data involves several processing steps. Depending on the data, this can include standardizing country names and world region definitions, converting units, calculating derived indicators such as per capita measures, as well as adding or adapting metadata such as the name or the description given to an indicator.

At the link below you can find a detailed description of the structure of our data pipeline, including links to all the code used to prepare data across Our World in Data.

Read about our data pipeline

Reuse this work

  • All data produced by third-party providers and made available by Our World in Data are subject to the license terms from the original providers. Our work would not be possible without the data providers we rely on, so we ask you to always cite them appropriately (see below). This is crucial to allow data providers to continue doing their work, enhancing, maintaining and updating valuable data.
  • All data, visualizations, and code produced by Our World in Data are completely open access under the Creative Commons BY license. You have the permission to use, distribute, and reproduce these in any medium, provided the source and authors are credited.

Citations

How to cite this page

To cite this page overall, including any descriptions, FAQs or explanations of the data authored by Our World in Data, please use the following citation:

“Data Page: Refugee population by country or territory of origin”. Our World in Data (2024). Data adapted from UN High Commissioner for Refugees (via World Bank). Retrieved from https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/refugee-population-by-country-or-territory-of-origin [online resource]
How to cite this data

In-line citationIf you have limited space (e.g. in data visualizations), you can use this abbreviated in-line citation:

Multiple sources compiled by World Bank (2024) – processed by Our World in Data

Full citation

Multiple sources compiled by World Bank (2024) – processed by Our World in Data. “Refugee population by country or territory of origin” [dataset]. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (via World Bank), “World Development Indicators” [original data]. Retrieved June 17, 2024 from https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/refugee-population-by-country-or-territory-of-origin