A common misconception is that refugees are flooding from Africa and Asia into Europe and North America. In most cases, they seek refuge in the closest neighboring country.

In the past decade, the global refugee population has more than doubled. In 2022, we exceeded 30 million refugees. A common misconception, however, is where refugees flee. In most cases, people affected by the world’s largest refugee crises aren’t able to make it to high-income countries in Europe or North America. Instead, they take shelter in neighboring countries—though the escalation of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine in 2022 has changed things up a bit in terms of the ten countries that take in the most refugees. 

Based on UNHCR data, here are those ten countries for 2024, as well as some of the challenges facing both refugees and host communities alike.

A quick note that we’re focusing specifically on refugees for this accounting. You can check out our explainer on the differences between migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally-displaced.

Learn more about the crises that shape our world — and our work to limit their effects on the most vulnerable people

10. Ethiopia

Ethiopia is host to over 867,000 refugees. Most have escaped conflict in nearby South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, and Eritrea. In recent years, COVID-19 has complicated the support of these refugee and internally-displaced communities, closing access to education for much of 2020 and creating shortages in medical supplies such as medications and diagnostic equipment. The country is also still recovering from the worst of the Horn of Africa crisis, a multi-year drought that continues to impact both refugee and host communities. 

Concern logistics advisor Paula Donohoe checking part of an aid consignment funded by Irish Aid after it arrived in Sudanese capital of Khartoum, on Christmas Day, 2020.
Concern logistics advisor Paula Donohoe checking part of an aid consignment funded by Irish Aid after it arrived in Sudanese capital of Khartoum, on Christmas Day, 2020. The aid is being distributed, as part of a Concern emergency operation, to refugees who have crossed the border from Ethiopia. (Photo: Concern Worldwide)

9. Sudan

While Sudan is one of the largest countries of asylum for refugees (over 926,000 as of mid-2023), it’s also the country of origin for one of the world’s largest refugee crises. It’s host to over 680,000 refugees from South Sudan — but even more Sudanese refugees have fled the country due to ongoing violence and instability. Because most refugees end up in a neighboring country, this also means that there are over 295,000 Sudanese refugees currently hosted in South Sudan. 

Concern is active in the area of Darfur, which is host to an overwhelming majority of people forcibly displaced from their homes, and working to support both refugees and host communities.

Aftermath of fire at Rohingya camp
The aftermath of a fire that destroyed 10,000 homes in Balukhali camp, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh in 2021. (Photo: Concern Worldwide)

8. Bangladesh

Virtually all of the 961,000 refugees currently living in Bangladesh are stateless Rohingya, who began seeking asylum en masse in 2017 after violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. In that time, the city of Cox’s Bazar has become home to the world’s largest refugee camp. 

Bangladesh has also been hit especially hard by climate change, with increasingly severe weather patterns — especially in monsoon season. These risks are magnified among refugee communities, who live in informal housing that is routinely destroyed by flood and fire. The close quarters have also made the transmission of diseases like COVID-19 a major concern. 

Concern has been responding to the Rohingya crisis since 2017. Together with UN agencies, over 130 local, national, and international nonprofits (including Concern) have supported the Government of Bangladesh to adjust to this increase in capacity. Safety and security remain serious concerns for the Rohingya living in Cox’s Bazar, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

7. Poland

Like Russia (see below), Poland became one of the countries to take in the most refugees owing to 2022’s escalation of conflict in Ukraine, with whom it shares a border. Over 989,000 refugees are currently in Poland, many from Ukraine. There are also several thousand refugees from Russia and Belarus. 

6. Russia

In 2022, the Russian Federation became one of the world’s largest host communities and is currently hosting 1.24 million refugees. Nearly all of these refugees are from neighboring Ukraine. 

Tens of thousands of people evacuating through the train station at Lviv in Ukraine
Tens of thousands of people evacuate Ukraine through the train station at Lviv, February 2022. Millions have found refuge in Germany, Poland, and the Russian Federation. (Photo: Kieran McConville/Concern Worldwide)

5. Uganda

Policymakers in Uganda have shaped and reshaped policy in recent years around providing safe and dignified shelter for an increasingly large refugee population that has grown from from 477,000 in 2015 to over 1.5 million in 2023. Over 882,000 are from South Sudan, and nearly half a million are from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

4. Pakistan

Pakistan’s refugee population of 2.08 million refugees is almost entirely from Afghanistan (2,079,989). Many have lived in the country for decades, initially fleeing the decadelong Soviet-Afghan War. The country experienced a dramatic increase of Afghan refugees in 2001, many settling in the Balochistan province just across the border. The protracted nature of these displacements means that many refugee families have lived in compromised living circumstances for generations. Climate change and, more recently, COVID-19 have further complicated matters, as the coastal Balochistan province is prone to floods and pandemic-related border closures have affected communities and economies in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Concern has worked in Pakistan since 2001. Since then, we’ve developed long-term programs in Balochistan, Punjab, and KPK province, each aimed at disaster risk reduction, financial security, and water and sanitation.

3. Germany

In recent years, out of the top countries that take in the most refugees, Germany was the only high-income country on the list. This changed in 2022 with the escalation of conflict in Ukraine, which has made large host communities out of Poland and Russia. It also made Germany the second-largest host community in the world, nearly doubling its refugee population in less than a year. At the beginning of 2022, Germany hosted 1.2 million refugees. As we enter 2024, the latest UNHCR data records 2.5 million. This includes over 1 million people from Ukraine, nearly 693,000 from Syria, 240,000 from Afghanistan, and over 150,000 from Iraq.

2. Türkiye

Over 3.36 million refugees are currently being hosted in Türkiye. The majority—3.33 million—are “Syrians under temporary protection.” Most Syrians in Türkiye live in host communities instead of informal tented communities, although many still live at bare-minimum conditions. Türkiye is also host to refugees from Iraq (over 12,000), Afghanistan (nearly 13,000), and Iran (over 5,300). 

Concern is responding to immediate needs around cash and livelihoods, including participating in the world’s largest cash-grant program (supported by EU funding). We’re also continuing to support communities affected by the deadly February 2023 earthquake in both Türkiye and Syria. 

Families queue as food and other aid items for Syrian refugees are distributed
Syrian refugee families line up as Concern distributes food and other aid items in southeastern Türkiye. (Photo: ECHO)

1. Iran

Iran experienced the largest growth in a refugee population on record in 2023, going from 840,000 refugees to over 3.4 million. With the exception of over 11,000 Iraqi refugees and a handful of asylum-seekers from Kuwait, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan, this is overwhelmingly due to an increase in refugees from neighboring Afghanistan. Much of this, however, is due to how the country now classifies its refugees and an effort to legitimize previously-undocumented refugees. Approximately 2.6 million Afghans became documented refugees in the second half of 2022 following these measures.

Concern’s work with refugees

Emergency response is part of Concern’s DNA and working with refugee communities in this context has become a core skill for our teams over the last six decades. 

We work with both refugee communities and host countries to ease the pressure that mass displacement can put on a host community. In addition to meeting the frontline needs  — including food, shelter, protection, and other non-food essentials — we also work with refugees on longer-term initiatives, including skill-building and livelihood development and psychosocial support. 

We also put a special focus on the needs of child refugees (who make up 40% of the global refugee population), including education, family support, and providing safe spaces where they can play and enjoy their childhood. 

In 2023, we responded to 66 emergencies in 20 countries, reaching nearly 15.5 million people. This included:

  • Playing an essential role in NGO coordination in Chad and collaborating with a consortium of NGOs on the cross-border response to support Sudanese refugees. 
  • Rehabilitating temporary shelters in Lebanon, including preparing them for harsh winter conditions, in communities hosting a total of 39,700 Syrian refugees.
  • Working with nearly 84,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on ways of preventing malnutrition within their families.