upper waypoint

MAP: What 40 Years of Global Refugee Migration Looks Like

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again


War and persecution have forced a record number of people worldwide to flee their homes, according to a June 2016 report from the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The rapid increase in recent years has reached crisis levels, largely fueled by the ongoing war in Syria, the world's single-largest driver of displacement.

By the end of 2015, there were 65.3 million forcibly displaced people, or more than one in every 113 people worldwide, according to the report. Surpassing even post-World War II numbers, it's a 10 percent increase from 2014, and nearly double what it was 20 years ago. There were an estimated 12.4 million newly displaced people in 2015 alone.

This population included about 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum-seekers and 40.8 million people were internally displaced (within their own country).


Of the 21.3 million refugees in 2015, 51 percent of them were children.  The majority of refugees were from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.

"Refugee" is an internationally recognized classification for those forced to flee their countries because of armed conflict or persecution. As laid out by the 1951 Refugee Convention, refugees are considered in a distinct category from migrants. The  majority of them are eligible for protection and assistance from the UN and, to a varying degree, its member states (although each nation has distinct ways of admitting and serving refugee populations).

The Refugee Project, featured below, is an interactive mapping and storytelling platform that illustrates refugee migrations around the world every year since 1975. Created by design firm Hyperakt and artist Ekene Ijeoma, the project uses UN data through 2015 and only includes registered refugees under UN protection (not the millions of other displaced people and economic migrants around the world). Circles around each country expand and contract as the flow of refugees grows or slows, and a heatmap at the bottom shows the change in population over time. Radiating lines point to where refugees have found asylum. The map also includes short histories of major refugee crises over the past four decades.

lower waypoint
next waypoint
Why So Many Central Americans Are Seeking Asylum in the U.S.Real-Time Interactive Earthquake Map: Get to Know Your Local FaultsIt's Really Happening! This Is What KQED's Youth Takeover Looks LikeWhen Rivers Caught Fire: A Brief History of Earth Day (with Lesson Plan)A Look Inside the Youth Vaping CrazeIt's Almost Tax Day. This Is How the Government Spends Your Hard-Earned CashIs the Endangered Species Act at Risk of Extinction?March Madness and the Money: Should College Athletes Get Paid?How to Stop a Nuclear War: The Non-Proliferation Treaty, ExplainedMAP: What Does the U.S.-Mexico Border Really Look Like?