The UN reports that as of the end of 2017 about 23 million persons are outside their country of origin as refugees from persecution, conflict, or generalized violence. About ten countries account for the great majority of these refugees. Of these 3.1 million are seeking asylum under guidelines of the United Nations agreed to originally in 1951 and administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The UN reports for the first time unaccompanied and separated children among the registered refugee and asylum-seeker population.
There are 68.5 million displaced persons in the world due to persecution, conflict, or generalized violence. 40.0 million are internally displaced. 19.9 million are refugees under the mandate of the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, plus another 5.4 million Palestine refugees. In addition, 3.1 million are asylum-seekers, meaning that they make a case that they have been persecuted by race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group with governmental involvement or connivance.
During 2017, 16.2 million people were newly displaced, including 4.4 million who sought protection abroad 6 and 11.8 million who were forced to flee but remained in their own countries.
As in previous years, Syria continued to account for the largest forcibly displaced population globally. As of the end of 2017, there were 12.6 million forcibly displaced Syrians, including 6.3 million refugees and 146,700 asylum-seekers. Colombia had the second-largest displaced population with 7.9 million victims of conflict, almost all internally displaced. The Democratic Republic of Congo was the third-largest displacement situation with 5.1 million Congolese forcibly displaced, comprising 620,800 refugees and 136,400 asylum-seekers.
Other large displaced populations include people from Afghanistan (4.8 million), South Sudan (4.4 million), Iraq (3.3 million), Somalia (3.2 million), Sudan (2.7 million), Yemen (2.1 million), Nigeria (2.0 million), and Ukraine (2.0 million).
The situation in Myanmar deteriorated rapidly in the second half of 2017. The flight of refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh occurred at a particularly rapid rate. Over 2017, 655,500 arrived in Bangladesh, mainly concentrated in 100 days from the end of August.
In terms of returns, some 667,400 refugees returned to their countries of origin in 2017 — only 3% of the refugee population.