Across the globe, 68.5 million individuals have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Issues that range from religious and racial persecution to government corruption are some of the driving forces behind the record number of people that are classified as refugees, asylum-seekers, or internally displaced people. Analyzing fifteen years of annual data, from 2002 to 2017, concerning refugee arrivals and asylum seekers in the United States reveal where forcibly displaced people are coming from. The trend in top countries reveal a pattern in just how much large scale internal crises and humanitarian issues lead to forced migration and resettlement.
"68.5 million individuals have been forcibly displaced from their homes..."
Is there a difference between the types of forcibly displaced people? The global displaced population can generally be categorized by refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people. According to HIAS, a refugee protection organization, a refugee is defined as “a person who has been forced to flee their home country due to persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group”. Refugees in host countries have successfully applied for or been granted refugee status prior to arrival. An asylum-seeker is “a person who has fled persecution in their home country and is seeking safe haven in a different country, but has not yet received any legal recognition or status”. Individuals applying for asylum are not guaranteed protection in this process and are often detained in immigration detention centers while awaiting a court decision. An internally displaced person (IDP) is “a person who fled their home but has not crossed an international border to find sanctuary”. These individuals remain in their country of origin under risk of danger and harm.
These following visualizations survey the status of forcibly displaced populations in the United States over fifteen years. In the case of many countries, the increased numbers of refugees and asylum seekers reflect ongoing political and social unease within a particular region.
Refugee Arrivals in the United States
The visualization below uses data provided by the Refugee Processing Center to map how many refugees arrive in the United States and which countries they come from per year, from 2002 to 2017. Explore trends in refugee arrivals by country by selecting a year to filter annual data.
With the pie chart view, compare the breakdown of the country of origin of refugee arrivals in the United States across the most recent 15 years. As the chart shows, the greatest amount of refugees to arrive in the US in 2002 was from Ukraine, with 6,104 Ukrainians making up the refugee arrivals that year. More recently in 2017, the greatest amount of arrivals came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 5,356 Congolese individuals making up the arrival population.
Asylum Seekers in the United States
The visualization below uses data provided by the UN Refugee Agency to map how many individuals apply for asylum in the United States and which countries they come from per year, from 2002 to 2017. Explore trends in asylum seekers by country by selecting a year to filter annual data.
With the pie chart view, compare the breakdown of the country of origin of asylum seekers in the United States across the most recent 15 years. As the chart shows, the greatest amount of asylum seekers to arrive in the US in 2002 was from El Salvador, with 150,900 individuals making up the asylum seeking population that year. More recently in 2017, the greatest amount of asylum seekers came from Sierra Leone, with 91,429 individuals making up the asylum population.
How Do Countries Compare Over Time?
In 2007, the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration, along with the United States and seven other countries, pledged to grant refugee status to some 108,000 Bhutanese and Burmese individuals. The “One Nation, One Policy” regulation prompted an expulsion of nearly 100,000 ethnic Nepali in the early 1990’s. Over the twenty years, around 85 percent of the Bhutanese refugee population has resettled in the United States, according to a report by the White House.
"The 'One Nation, One Policy' regulation prompted an expulsion of nearly 100,000 ethnic Nepali..."
The images below comparing refugee arrivals in the United States from 2007 to 2008 show the effect of this agreement. Refugee arrivals from the two countries are seen to have grown in the year 2008 due to this humanitarian aid effort. The number of Bhutanese granted refugee status jumped from zero to 7,544 in just the year of 2008 alone.
Bhutan in 2007 and 2008
In 2014, violent, anti-government protests held in Kiev led to civilian deaths and the departure of then-President Viktor Yanukovych. Ongoing problems such as the targeting of ethnic and religious groups and separatist control over regions have driven Ukrainians to flee the country. Data from the UN Refugee Agency shows that asylum seekers from Ukraine rose to 7,574 in 2017, compared to the 373 individuals a decade earlier in 2006. The upward trend in Ukrainians seeking asylum reflects the unresolved political tensions surrounding the country.
Ukraine in 2006 and 2017
The Democratic Republic of Congo
Displacement due to a tribal crisis in the Kasai region have led individuals to seek refuge in surrounding African regions and further countries. The Congolese government came into conflict with the tribal chief Kamwina Nsapu in 2016, whose followers have led violent attacks in the region against various government institutions.
“Congolese refugee arrivals in 2016 have increased by more than 19,200 individuals…”
The conflict has resulted in over a million individuals fleeing from their homes and a number of individuals granted protected refugee status in the United States. Congolese refugee arrivals in 2016 have increased by more than 19,200 individuals, compared to the 565 arrivals in 2006.
The DRC in 2006 and 2016
Numbers of individuals seeking aid from countries generally follow the pattern of numerous events that unfold regarding political and social disruption throughout years. A global trend report shows that the world’s forcibly displaced population continues to reach record levels, with 68.5 million individuals at the end of 2017 - and these numbers are only increasing.
While the United States has received refugees in the multitudes over the years, the issues leading to the forced displacement of asylum seekers around the world, such as persecution and political violence, still present a number of considerations regarding policy and attitude towards displaced populations. According to UNHCR's 2017 Global Trends report, one third of refugees were hosted by the world's least developed countries, a majority of which are struggling with immigration crises themselves. How does the United States compare to other host countries? What more can be done and what are the limitations that persist?
Banner photo credit: Half Of 'Caravan' Asylum Seekers In U.S., Sessions Puts Judges On Border | HuffPost