UNHCR: Forced Displacement Grew 21% in 2022, Now 110 Million Worldwide

By Sharon Samber


people looking down, boarding blue train with yellow stripe

Civilians board the evacuation train in Pokorvsk in July of 2022. Millions fled their homes to other countries and millions of Ukrainian families are still displaced in the western part of the country since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. (Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Ahead of World Refugee Day, the United Nations’ refugee agency announced the greatest number of forcibly displaced people ever recorded.

The UNHCR Global Trends report released Wednesday shows 108.4 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2022, but recent fighting, especially in Sudan, has pushed the global total to an estimated 110 million as of May 2023. 

The data, which includes millions who fled Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in February 2022 and millions who were relocated to Western Ukraine, noted 62.5 million internally displaced people, 35.3 million refugees who crossed an international border, and 5.4 million asylum seekers across the globe. UNHCR’s annual report explains how and why these worldwide numbers changed over the past year, and reinforces that the number of forcibly displaced people has been increasing for years.

Because of the severity of the Ukraine crisis, UNHCR included those fleeing Ukraine and those displaced inside the country in their Global Trends report last June. The actual jump in numbers from 2021 to 2022 represents a 21% increase, the largest ever change between years according to UNHCR’s statistics on forced displacement.

“HIAS often celebrates the resilience of refugees, but the announcement of 110 million displaced people is very sad news,” said Mark Hetfield, HIAS President and CEO. “It should shock people that these numbers are so high, and motivate the international community to work harder for solutions that reverse this trend. The jump is disturbing, and we must look for new ways to help people voluntarily return home or find a new home.”

Another disturbing statistic from this year’s report: 1 in every 74 people on Earth has been forced to flee violence or persecution. But at least some forcibly displaced people can and do go home, voluntarily and safely— in 2022, over 339,000 refugees returned to 38 countries. 

It should shock people that these numbers are so high, and motivate the international community to work harder for solutions that reverse this trend.

Mark Hetfield, HIAS President and CEO

Key points from the 2022 report:

  • More than 7 in 10 of all refugees come from just five countries: Syria (6.8 million), Venezuela (5.6 million), Ukraine (5.4 million), Afghanistan (2.8 million), and South Sudan (2.4 million).
  • Internally displaced people account for 58% of all those forcibly displaced; nearly 1 in 3 Syrians are still internally displaced after more than a decade of conflict.
  • Asylum seekers submitted 2.6 million new claims. The United States was the world’s largest recipient of new individual applications with 730,400.
  • Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees, with 3.6 million people, while Iran hosts 3.4 million. Colombia, where HIAS has multiple offices, hosts 2.5 million, including other people in need of international protection.
  • Relative to its national population, Aruba, where HIAS has an office, hosted the largest number of refugees (1 in 6).
  • 4.4 million people around the world are stateless; about 1.3 million of them are also displaced. Most of them are Rohingya, either internally displaced in Myanmar or refugees. The true global figure is estimated to be significantly higher.

In the leadup to World Refugee Day on June 20, HIAS urges the U.S. and other countries to do more to ensure that refugees have access to safety. Learn more about how you can get involved and take action here.

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