Refugee 101

We live in a world where nearly 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes because of violence or persecution. These people are displaced. They are in a desperate search for better places to live – but often they are forced to travel hundreds of miles through conditions just as bad as the places they are fleeing from. Below are the basic facts about the global refugee crisis.

Who is a refugee?

  • A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country because of conflict, violence or persecution.
  • Someone who has been forced to flee his or her home, but stays within his or her home country, is called an internally displaced person.


The global refugee crisis has escalated to levels not seen since World War II, and more people are displaced every day.

  • Worldwide, almost 60 million people have been forced to leave their homes because of violence, persecution and war. If these people made up a country it would be the 24th largest in the world.
  • Every day, more than 42,500 people are forced to flee their homes and leave the lives they know behind. That means a new person flees every other second.
  • More than half of all refugees worldwide are children.
  • More than half of the world’s refugees come from the three countries: Syria (more than 4 million), Afghanistan (2.59 million), Somalia (1.11 million).
  • Other major areas of concern include Central America’s Northern Triangle (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador), Ukraine, Iraq, Myanmar and parts of sub-Saharan Africa (Sudan, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Eritrea, among others).
  • On average, refugees are uprooted from their lives for 17 years.
  • Growing threats like climate change and gang violence further add to the crisis.

Nearly one million refugees have made their way to Europe in 2015, with more arriving every day.

  • More than half of these are from Syria, and more than 6,000 refugees arrive in Greece every day.
  • Almost 4,000 people have died in the dangerous journey to Europe, both by land and while crossing the Mediterranean.
  • Syrian refugees are fleeing a bloody civil war that began in 2011 and has killed almost 200,000 people and left another 12 million displaced — that’s about half the Syrian population.

The United States has always been the global leader in protecting and helping refugees.

  • Under the UN Refugee Convention of 1951, the international community pledged to support refugees as they seek safety and shelter.
  • The United States has taken in more than 3 million refugees since 1975 and contributes more humanitarian aid to refugee-related issues around the world than any other country.
  • When refugees come to the United States, they are more thoroughly vetted than any other population entering the country. The process for seeking asylum in the United States generally takes at least 18-24 months and involves multiple government, intelligence and security agencies.