Number of Displaced People Rises

Michael Renner | Jun 25, 2013

For reasons that range from warfare and persecution to natural disasters and development projects, an estimated 92.56 million people were forcibly displaced in 2012, either inside their home countries or across a border.1 (See Figure 1.) Displacement is sometimes temporary, but in other cases it can last for years.

International refugees under the care of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) numbered 10.5 million, and there are also close to 1 million asylum seekers worldwide.2 Meanwhile, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is tasked with providing support to about 5 million Palestinian refugees.3 Internally displaced persons (IDPs)—at 28.8 million—outnumber international refugees by a significant margin.4 People displaced by natural hazards—typically also displaced inside their own countries but seen as a separate category since, unlike IDPs, they are not victims of human actions—ran to more than 32 million in 2012, but this number varies considerably from year to year.5 In addition, a large number of people are displaced by ill-considered development projects. No firm numbers exist, but the World Disasters Report 2012 offers a rough guess of 15 million such individuals.6

The number of people who leave involuntarily—the 92.56 million people just described—remains considerably lower than that of people who leave of their own volition.7 Long-term international migrants—people who decide to live outside their home country for a year or longer—are estimated at 214 million, and internal migrants may number as many as 740 million.8 The ranks of both groups of migrants have grown significantly over the past half-century as economies have become more interconnected.9

Displaced Populations Figure 1

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