Both refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are usually forcibly uprooted from their homes. Refugees are those who have crossed over the border of their state or country, and are protected by the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. IDPs flee their homes and communities but remain within the borders of their state and may be especially vulnerable, as they are not under similar international legal protection.

The reasons for leaving their homes are often the same among refugees and IDPs: war, persecution, government policies, human rights violations, or natural disaster and other changes in the environment, such as drought or deforestation.

Fast Facts

  • About 1 in 4 refugees is Syrian.
  • There are 38.2 million IDPs worldwide, with the following countries making up some of the highest numbers: Syria (7.6 million), Colombia (6 million), Iraq (3.6 million), Democratic Republic of Congo (2.8 million) and South Sudan (1.5 million).
  • During 2014, conflict and persecution forced an average of 42,500 persons per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere, either as refugees or IDPs.
In 2014, 51% of the 19.5 million refugees worldwide were under 18 years old.


As of 2014, Syria is the primary source country of refugees worldwide. This marks a significant shift, as Afghanistan held the top spot for more than three decades. The change comes as a result of the conflict in Syria, where war has forced some 4.8 million Syrians to flee their country.
Among the Syrians registered as refugees by UNHCR, about 95% are located in neighboring countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. It is estimated that more than half of Syria’s population is displaced.