This Sunday, June 20, marks the 20th anniversary of World Refugee Day — a day established by the United Nations in 2001 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. As of mid-2020, the U.N. estimates that there are over 80 million forcibly displaced people globally — 26.4 million of which are refugees.
About 67% of these refugees come from just five countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar. Syrian refugees make up the largest portion of refugees worldwide, with 6.6 million Syrians currently displaced from their home country.
Turkey hosts about half of the Syrian refugee population along with hosting more total refugees than any other country, with an estimated 3.6 million refugees living in Turkey as of mid-2020.
Colombia takes in the second largest refugee population at 1.7 million refugees, most of whom come from Venezuela, its neighboring country. Jordan previously held the spot for second highest refugee population but has since dropped out of the top 10 after enacting strict regulations in 2019 that prevent the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees from registering people who officially entered the country for the purposes of medical treatment, study, tourism, or work as refugees. The move effectively bars non-Syrians from earning refugee status and receiving subsequent aid or protections.
With the exception of Germany, all of the top 10 countries that host the most refugees are developing countries. By mid-2020, Germany — which hosts the fifth most refugees globally at 1.1 million predominantly Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees — experienced its first drop in refugee population since 2013. In 2020, Germany saw a decrease in 35,300 refugees, which the U.N reports is primarily due to refugees having their protection status revoked or withdrawn.
The first half of 2020 also saw a 33% decrease in the number of asylum applications worldwide, likely due to travel restrictions because of the pandemic. By the crest of the first wave of the pandemic in April, 168 countries had fully or partially closed borders and 90 countries had barred entry into their borders with no exceptions for asylum seekers.
Despite the decrease in new asylum applications, the U.N. reports that as of mid-2020, there is a global backlog of 4.2 million pending individual asylum applications — a figure that has remained virtually unchanged since the start of 2020.
Zoya Wazir is a student at George Washington University and a News intern.