World Refugee Day: Syria to Myanmar, 5 Largest Refugee Crises Outside of Europe

Before the war in Ukraine, around 68% of all refugees under the UNHCR’s mandate, came from just five countries.

3 min read
Edited By :Tejas Harad

Video Editor: Prajwal Kumar

World Refugee Day, which is observed every year on 20 June by the United Nations to remember and honour refugees across the globe, holds a special significance in 2022.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has created the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. As of 1 June, more than 6.9 million people have fled Ukraine and 2.1 million have returned.

This has led to a tragic record – a total of 100 million people have now been forcibly displaced worldwide.

But did you know that before the war in Ukraine, around 68 percent of all refugees under the UNHCR’s mandate came from just five countries, across Asia, Africa, and Latin America?

What are these refugees fleeing? Where are they taking asylum?



The Syrian War has produced almost 7 million refugees who have sought refuge in countries across the world like Turkey, Lebanon, Germany, and the United States among others.

Turkey’s burden is the heaviest, with around 3.7 million Syrian refugees residing in the country.

Additionally, according to the Pew Research Centre, more than 6 million Syrians are internally displaced.

What started as a peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad 11 years ago escalated into a devastating civil war leaving half a million people dead and cities reduced to rubble.



There are nearly 6 million Afghans who have been forcibly displaced from their homes due to four-and-a-half decades of conflict.

Of those, 3.5 million are displaced within Afghanistan; 2.6 million are Afghan refugees living in other countries, mostly in Iran and Pakistan – with 1.4 million and 780,000 registered Afghan refugees in each country respectively.

The Afghan diaspora in India is approximately 21,000 strong and according to the UNHCR, 11,000 Afghans are registered as asylum seekers in the country.

Starting with the Soviet invasion in 1979, to the Taliban takeover in 1996, to the US invasion in 2001, and to the Taliban’s return to power in 2021, Afghanistan has seen relentless conflict and bloodshed.

In August 2021, when the Taliban took over, the conflict forcibly displaced nearly 700,000 Afghans across all provinces.



As of today, around 1.1 million Rohingyas have fled the country. Almost a million of them – half of them children – were forced to seek refuge in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar.

Some have sought refuge in other neighbouring countries like Thailand and India, with smaller numbers settling in Indonesia, Nepal, and other countries across the region. As of 2020, approximately 370,000 people were internally displaced.

What makes their crisis unique is that the Rohingya are not recognised as an official ethnic group and have been denied citizenship since 1982, making them the world’s largest stateless population.

An estimated 40,000 Rohingya are in India, at least 20,000 of whom are registered with the UNHCR.



About 4.1 million have left Venezuela because of the economic crisis. As of March 2021, an estimated 1.7 million people from Venezuela were based in Colombia alone.

The refugee crisis in this country, which is the largest of its kind ever in the Americas, is a peculiar case because it defies the conventional understanding of what a refugee is, which is a human being fleeing either war or persecution.

Millions of Venezuelans are what is known as economic refugees who leave their home country in search of a better job or for higher living standards elsewhere.

The crisis is the product of years of economic mismanagement and official corruption of a country that has de facto functioned like a petrostate, where the government is highly dependent on income from fossil fuels.

As oil prices plummeted between 2013 and 2016, so did Venezuela’s economy.


South Sudan

The majority of the 2.3 million South Sudanese refugees are living in neighbouring countries such as Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Additionally, another 1.87 million remain internally displaced.

South Sudan was established as a new country in 2011 after the Second Sudanese Civil War.

Unfortunately, however, only two years later, in 2013, conflict broke out in the new country between forces of the government and the opposition.

This conflict also had ethnic undertones with massive fighting between the Dinka ethnic group and the Nuer ethnic group.

The World Food Programme (WFP) had recently announced that it is suspending food aid to 1.7 million people in the country, due to "soaring food prices exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine."

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