Responding to Pakistan's Internally Displaced (RAPID)
RAPID is a funding program that allows Concern to quickly and efficiently deliver aid to people displaced by conflict or natural disaster.Read More
A common misconception is that refugees are flooding 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 last year 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 2023, as well as some of the challenges facing both refugees and host communities alike.
A quick note that we’re focusing specifically on refugees and listing them by country of origin for this accounting. You can check out our explainer on the differences between migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally-displaced.
Iran is host to 840,000 refugees, 820,000 of whom come from Afghanistan. The countries share a border that runs more than 550 miles, which speaks to the larger Afghan population in Iran: In addition to refugees, there are approximately 3.2 million Afghans in the country, an estimated half of whom are undocumented. The numbers and overall situation are expected to change as the crisis in Afghanistan continues to develop and worsen.
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 at the center of the current Horn of Africa crisis, a multi-year drought that is impacting both refugees and host communities.
Virtually all of the 929,000 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.
While Sudan is one of the largest countries of asylum for refugees (1.11 million as of 2022), it’s also the country of origin for one of the world’s largest refugee crises. It’s host to over 807,000 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 310,000 Sudanese refugees currently hosted in South Sudan. Sudan has also become a host to tens of thousands of Ethiopian, Syrian, and Eritrean refugees. The number of internally-displaced people in the country brings the UNHCR’s total count of “people of concern” closer to 3.6 million.
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.
Like Russia (see below), Poland became one of the countries to take in the most refugees owing to last year’s escalation of conflict in Ukraine, which shares a border. Of the 1.21 million refugees currently living in Poland, 1.2 million are from Ukraine. There are also several thousand refugees from Russia and Belarus.
In 2022, the Russian Federation became one of the world’s largest host communities and is currently hosting 1.45 million refugees. Nearly all of these refugees are from neighboring Ukraine.
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 940,000 in 2016 to 1,489,000 in 2022. Nearly 1 million refugees in Uganda are from South Sudan, and over 430,000 are from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Pakistan’s refugee population of 1,539,554 million refugees is almost entirely from Afghanistan: 1,539,046. 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.
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. Now, in early 2023, it hosts 2.2 million. This includes over 875,000 Ukrainian refugees and nearly 665,000 Syrian refugees, as well as over 183,000 refugees from Afghanistan and 151,000 from Iraq.
Over 3.67 million refugees are currently being hosted in Türkiye. The majority—3.64 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 10,000), Afghanistan (nearly 8,400), and Iran (nearly 4,500).
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 responding to the deadly February 2023 earthquake in both Türkiye and Syria.
Concern’s response to the world’s displacement crisis is in keeping with the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, approved by all 193 Member States of the United Nations in September, 2016.
The CRRF gives a set of guidelines for approaching the predictable aspects of these crises. This includes:
Last year alone, Concern responded to 66 emergencies in 23 countries, reaching 17.8 million people with urgent necessities such as shelter, healthcare, and food as well as longer-term livelihood training that benefit both displaced and host communities.