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Image: © Emrah Gurel / AP/Press Association Images

We’ve got more refugees in the world than ever before. These five charts explore how this happened

There are now more refugees in the world than ever before in history - a total of 65.3 million people. Yet it's very difficult to know enough about who they are, where they come from, and where they’re going. These five charts might make things a bit clearer.

Think most refugees are heading to Europe or America? Think again – 82% are hosted in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. More than half of all refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia...

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Image: © UNHCR

The figure of 65.3 million represents more than the population of the whole United Kingdom. Let that number sink in for a moment.

It means that roughly one in 113 people had to leave their home because of war, persecution, natural disasters, famine, and economic changes. It means that, every minute, 24 people run away from their home, their jobs and often their families, taking incredibly dangerous journeys in search of better lives.

About 62% of these people are internally displaced, meaning that they left their home but not their home country, while about 5% are asylum seekers in industrialized countries waiting a decision on their asylum application. That leaves a 32% that are considered refugees, meaning that they left their home country and have not yet applied for asylum.

… and they’re moving to countries that are close to them. Syrians move to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, Afghani refugees move to Pakistan and Iran

Image: © Reliefweb

Only 11% of refugees from the top five countries of origin end up in a non-neighbouring country. For example, officially Turkey has an open door policy to Syrian refugees, but human rights organizations are accusing Turkey of not living up to its word. Just recently, Human Rights Watch claimed that in March and April 2015 Turkish border police killed five people, including a child, and injured 14 more.

But despite this, people all around the world think their countries have taken in way more refugees than they actually have...

Image: © Aurora Prize Humanitarian Index

Anti-refugee sentiment is spreading in Europe and North America, with refugee centers being burned down in Sweden, violent anti-refugees protests in Germany, calls for bans on all Muslim immigration by a US presidential candidate and right-wing parties rising in popularity across Europe. And it seems like this fear of refugees has been influenced by an incorrect assessment of the actual numbers.

People in Europe and in the US seem to overestimate just how many Syrian refugees their country is hosting. In the UK, for example, the chart above shows that people seem to think that 10,000 refugees have been granted refugee status (that is, they had their asylum application accepted). Actually, only 5,000 Syrians have been accepted as refugees in the UK since 2011. In Germany, the public believes that 500,000 Syrian refugees have been accepted, but the true number is about five times smaller than that.

… while grossly underestimating how many Syrian refugees there actually are (except for Lebanon, which kind of gets it right)...

Image: © Aurora Prize Humanitarian Index

The actual number of Syrian refugees worldwide is estimated to be around 4.8 million. People in the UK believe this number to be only 300,000. The US is even worse at estimating the size of the Syrian refugee population, believing that the number of Syrian refugees worldwide is only 10% of what it actually is. Germany and Iran do get somewhat closer to the actual figure, but they still believe the actual number to be 50% smaller than it is. Only Lebanon gets near the mark. Maybe that’s because one person in four in Lebanon is a refugee.

And finally, we need to talk more about it. People who've acted did so after hearing a personal story from a refugee

Image: © Aurora Prize Humanitarian Index

Around a quarter of those who took action to help refugees in the US, the UK, France, Germany and Iran did so after hearing a personal story of someone affected. That’s even more so in Lebanon, where more than a third of those that took action to help refugees did so after hearing a personal story. Stories are important in pushing people to action, and we need to continue giving all the numbers coming out of the refugee crisis a voice.

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