In 2009, nearly 43.3 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution. According to the latest statistics published by the United Nationals High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), this is the highest number since the mid-1990s. This number includes 15.2 million refugees, 27.1 million internally displayed persons, and nearly 1 million individuals whose asylum application had not yet been adjudicated by the end of the reporting period.

Pakistan, Iran, Islamic Rep. of, Syrian Arab Republic, Germany, and Jordan are the five major refugee-hosting countries and accounted for 47 percent of all refugees under UNCHR mandate. Refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq alone accounted for 45 percent of all refugees under the UNHCR’s responsibility. 

Major refugee hosting countries, thousands, end-2009

Major source countries of refugees , thousands, end-2009

The total number of refugees and people in refugee-like situations has remained stable at 15.2 million. Out of these, 10.4 million were refuges under UNHCR’s responsibility. The remaining 4.8 million are Palestinian refugees who fall under the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The number of internally displaced persons rose from 26 million in at the end of 2008 to 27.1 million at the end of 2009, a 4.2 percent increase. Out of the total, 15.6 million of the internally displaced persons at the end of 2009 were protected or assisted by the UNHCR. The tragic situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, and Somalia mainly accounted for the overall increase of 1.2 million internally displaced persons under UNHCR’s care.

The number of pending cases for asylum seekers also rose by 19 percent, from 826 thousand in 2008 to 983 thousand in 2009.

Refugees and internally displaced persons protected/ assisted by UNHCR for 1995-2009 (end-year), millions

What are displaced people?
  • Refugee - an individual who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.
  • Internally displaced persons  - people or groups of individuals who have been forced to leave their homes or places of residence, in particular as a result of, or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights, or natural- or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an international border.
  • Asylum seekers - individuals who have sought international protection and whose claims for refugee status have not yet been determined.
People are recognized as refugees under the following:
  • 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol,
  • 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa
  • in accordance with the UNHCR statute,
  • People granted refugee-like humanitarian status, and people provided temporary protection.

For more information, click here. Data on refugees, internally displaced persons, and asylum seekers are available in UNHCR Statistical Online Population Database.

Help/Feedback

User Voice