Fact Sheet

70.8 Million People Displaced Globally

70.8 Million People Displaced Globally
Source: UNHCR

The U.S. admitted fewer than 54,000 refugees in 2017, at the time the lowest number in a decade. In FY 2018, the president further reduced the refugee admissions ceiling to 45,000 and America admitted less than 23,000 refugees last year. This year, the admissions ceiling is just 30,000, and as of June 30, we have admitted only 21,260 refugees.

Number of Refugees Admitted Annually

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refuees (UNHCR) is usually responsible for designating/recognizing refugee status in international settings. UNHCR refers fewer than 1 percent of all refugees worldwide for resettlement to a third country, usually the most vulnerable, and only when the other two durable solutions–voluntary repatriation (being able to safely go home) or local integration (your host country lets you stay legally)–are not possible. In 2018, the U.S. lost its status as the leading refugee resettlement country. In that year Canada resettled 28,000 refugees, over 5,000 more than the U.S.

Origin of Refugees arriving in the United States of America (2002-2018)

Origin of Refugees arriving in the United States of America (2002-2018)

Who is a refugee?

An individual who is outside his or her country of origin and who, due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion is unable to, or owing to such a fear, unwilling to avail him- or herself of the protection of that country.

Who is an internally displaced person?

Someone who has been forced from his.her home for refugee-like reasons, but remains within the borders of his/her own country.

Who is a Migrant?

An individual who chooses to move not because of a direct threat of persecution or death, but mainly to improve their lives by finding work, or in some cases for education, family reunion, or other reasons. Unlike refugees who cannot safely return home, these migrants face no such impediment to return. If they choose to return home, they will continue to receive the protection of their government. However there are instances where migration is forced, such as with climate driven migration or an individual fleeing crime or violence, where this type of migration does not necessarily qualify them as a refugee under the international legal definition because it may not meet one of the designated grounds.

Who is an asylum seeker?

An individual outside his or her country of origin seeking refugee status based on a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion, but whose claim has not been legally substantiated. Often, an asylum seeker must undergo a legal procedure in which the host country decides if he/she qualifies for refugee or another form of legal status. International law recognizes the right to seek asylum, but does not oblige states to provide it. An asylee applies for asylum (refugee status) at the border or within the country to which they have fled.

Who is a “Dreamer”?

An individual eligible for work authorization in the United States and protection from deportation for two years because of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), announced by President Obama on June 15th, 2012. To qualify, one must have been born on or after June 16, 1981, arrived to the United States before age 16, and have lived in the U.S. since June 15th, 2007. Named “Dreamers” after the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation first introduced in Congress in 2001 that would afford these individuals permanent legal status.

Largest Resettled Refugee Groups by State of Initial Resettlement, FY 2007-17*

Largest Resettled Refugee Groups by State of Initial Resettlement, FY 2007-17*
*Data for FY 2017 are partial and refer to resettlement between October 1, 2016 and April 30, 2017. Source MPI analysis of State Department WRAPS data.