The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, collates population data relating to persons who are forcibly displaced or stateless. The data is sourced primarily from governments and also from UNHCR operations.

Browse the definitions and data structure of the population data in the two linked pages.

Measuring forced displacement and statelessness

The collection, compilation and dissemination of statistics on refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons (IDPs) is challenging. The Expert Group on Refugee and IDP Statistics (EGRIS) was established in 2016 by the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC). It is tasked with addressing these challenges including the lack of consistent terminology and difficulties in comparing statistics internationally. Key guidance produced by EGRIS so far includes:

The Expert Group on Statelessness Statistics and the Inter-agency Group on Statelessness Estimation were established in 2019 with a view to support countries in improving statelessness statistics and to submit international recommendations on statelessness statistics to the UNSC in 2022.

Refugees, asylum-seekers and returned refugees

The diagram below shows the population groups referred to as refugee and refugee-related based on the definitions and concepts contained in the International Recommendations on Refugee Statistics.


Persons in need of international protection comprises prospective asylum-seekers, asylum-seekers, recognized refugees and persons with complementary, subsidiary and temporary forms of protection, and others in refugee-like situations. This category also includes children of refugees or asylum-seekers who may have been born in the country of asylum but did not acquire citizenship of that country and are therefore in need of international protection. These groups, normally excluding prospective asylum-seekers, are counted in UNHCR’s asylum-seeker and refugee statistics, and they are counted under the numbers of forcibly displaced persons. Persons with a refugee background includes naturalized former refugees, family members of refugees such as children born to refugees who acquired or are entitled to citizenship of the country of asylum, and reunified family members from abroad who are important groups but not considered as in need of international protection. They are, however, often of relevance to UNHCR. These groups are not counted among the figures on forcibly displaced persons.

Persons returned from abroad after seeking international protection, often called returnees, comprise repatriating refugees, repatriating asylum-seekers whose asylum application has been decided negative, and other groups who sought or received forms of international protection and returned to their former country of habitual residence.

Venezuelans displaced abroad

People are leaving Venezuela for many reasons: violence, insecurity, fear of being targeted for their political opinions (whether real or perceived), shortages of food and medicine, lack of access to social services, and being unable to support themselves and their families. By the end of 2019, almost 4.5 million Venezuelans had left their homes, travelling mainly towards Latin America and the Caribbean. It is the biggest exodus in the region’s recent history and one of the biggest displacement crises in the world. They stay in their host countries under a wide range of legal status inside and outside the asylum systems.

Various interconnected factors are causing Venezuelans to leave, but given the deteriorating political, socioeconomic and human rights conditions, it is clear that international protection considerations, according to the refugee criteria in the 1951 Convention/1967 Protocol and the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, are applicable to the majority of Venezuelans. With the objective of ensuring a coherent and coordinated operational response, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) established the Regional Interagency Coordination Platform in September 2018. Venezuelans displaced abroad are included in the global forced displacement total.

Internally displaced persons

IDPs are people who have been forced to leave or abandon their homes, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border. People flee within their own countries for example to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural- and human-made disasters. UNHCR compiles data only on conflict-generated IDPs to whom the organization extends protection and/or assistance. As such, UNHCR statistics do not provide a complete overview of global internal displacement. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) maintains a database on IDPs displaced due to violence and conflict as well as due to natural disasters, providing a more comprehensive picture of global internal displacement.

Stateless persons

UNHCR compiles figures on persons under its statelessness mandate for two population groups. The first are persons who meet the statelessness definition in the 1954 Convention because they are not considered as nationals of any State. The second group are persons with undetermined nationality, a population group for which UNHCR collects data in response to Executive Committee Conclusion No. 106 from 2006.

While a formal definition of a person with undetermined nationality does not exist, UNHCR uses the working definition of a person who lacks proof of possession of any nationality and who at the same time has or is perceived as having links to a State other than the one he/she is living in. Persons with undetermined nationality have in many cases a migratory history that leads to an unresolved nationality status. UNHCR previously also reported on de facto stateless populations but discontinued doing so in mid-2019 based on an assessment that de facto statelessness was often incorrectly used to refer to people who meet the statelessness definition in the 1954 Convention and who should therefore be reported as such. Over the past decade, these concepts and definitions have sometimes been applied inconsistently in different UNHCR country operations for the annual statistical reporting process. See the technical paper "UNHCR Statistical Reporting on Statelessness" for details. It is therefore challenging to compare statelessness figures across different countries or even to compare figures in the same country for different years. To identify stateless persons and develop reliable methods for statelessness estimation, it is important to recognize the different causes of statelessness. Nationality laws that are inconsistent with international standards and state secession are together responsible for a significant proportion of today’s known global stateless population. Migration, nomadism and forced displacement are additional potential causes of statelessness.

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Except where otherwise indicated, the datasets made available by UNHCR on UNHCR Refugee Population Statistics Database are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License.

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