Image Credits: manhhai, Flickr

UNHCR: 2014, The Year with Highest Increase of Forcibly Displaced Individuals

The latest UNHCR report released on June 18th depicts the numbers behind the massive refugee crisis of the last years. According to the report "By end-2014, 59.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations. This is 8.3 million persons more than the year before (51.2 million) and the highest annual increase in a single year". [1]

This resource tries to offer new insights on the latest UNHCR Report, by offering a series of interactive data visualizations that highlight specific angles of the global refugee crisis of the last years.

Rejected Asylum Requests: Mapping the Different Approaches to the Refugee Crisis

Syria now accounts for 3.8 million refugees and people in a refugee-like situation, according to UNHCR. To put this in perspective, more than one every four of last year's refugees was Syrian. Most of them fled to Turkey, who by the end of last year hosted rmore than 1.56 million Syrian refugees. Lebanon and Jordan also sustained the burden, with respectively 1.15M and 623K. But not every person fleeing Syria is given the refugee status and the international protection required to come with it. Russia and Italy share a worrying record. They are the only two countries in the world that last year rejected the refugee status to more than a third of the asylum requests received from Syria.

Asylum Seekers: Percentage of Rejected Refugees of all Processed Cases in 2014. Filtered for Syria as Origin
Page Title
Asylum Seekers, Decision: Total
Asylum Seekers, Rejected Refugees (of all Decisions)
Destination Country
Syrian Arab Republic -> Algeria1660.0%Algeria
Syrian Arab Republic -> ArmeniaArmenia
Syrian Arab Republic -> AustriaAustria
Syrian Arab Republic -> Belgium1,7721.7%Belgium
Syrian Arab Republic -> Brazil1,4050.0%Brazil
Syrian Arab Republic -> Bulgaria7,5300.2%Bulgaria
Syrian Arab Republic -> Canada7303.7%Canada
Syrian Arab Republic -> Cyprus929Cyprus
Syrian Arab Republic -> Czech Republic79Czech Republic
Syrian Arab Republic -> Denmark4,1774.2%Denmark
Syrian Arab Republic -> EgyptEgypt
Syrian Arab Republic -> Finland1495.4%Finland
Syrian Arab Republic -> France1,5957.3%France
Syrian Arab Republic -> Germany26,7030.1%Germany
Syrian Arab Republic -> Greece2,23019.6%Greece
Syrian Arab Republic -> Hungary6,2531.5%Hungary
Syrian Arab Republic -> IraqIraq
Syrian Arab Republic -> Italy49035.9%Italy
Syrian Arab Republic -> Jordan6,0660.1%Jordan
Syrian Arab Republic -> Lebanon6,7330.0%Lebanon
Syrian Arab Republic -> LibyaLibya
Syrian Arab Republic -> Macedonia3250.0%Macedonia
Syrian Arab Republic -> Malaysia4451.6%Malaysia
Syrian Arab Republic -> Malta396Malta
Syrian Arab Republic -> Montenegro1,673Montenegro
Syrian Arab Republic -> Netherlands5,9528.6%Netherlands
Syrian Arab Republic -> Norway1,66510.5%Norway
Syrian Arab Republic -> Poland1940.0%Poland
Syrian Arab Republic -> Romania61222.2%Romania
Syrian Arab Republic -> Russian Federation2,33441.3%Russian Federation
Syrian Arab Republic -> Serbia and Kosovo9,606Serbia and Kosovo
Syrian Arab Republic -> South Korea5731.4%South Korea
Syrian Arab Republic -> Spain1,1710.8%Spain
Syrian Arab Republic -> Sweden19,0683.7%Sweden
Syrian Arab Republic -> Switzerland3,2166.9%Switzerland
Syrian Arab Republic -> Thailand1330.0%Thailand
Syrian Arab Republic -> Turkey8,230Turkey
Syrian Arab Republic -> Ukraine23417.9%Ukraine
Syrian Arab Republic -> United Kingdom1,7176.5%United Kingdom
Syrian Arab Republic -> United States of America9815.3%United States of America
Syrian Arab Republic -> Yemen1,0650.0%Yemen

Change the filters to see how countries responded to refugees from other countries.

Top 20 Asylum Seekers' Request Flows with Highest Rejection Rate

Note: Charts filters out flows with less than 1,000 Asylum requests processed. You can change or remove this threshold by clicking "Explore". Click the heading to change the sorting order to ascending, and see the cases with lowest rejection rates.

South Africa is among the leading countries with the highest rejection rates. It rejected between 90% and 100% of all the asylum applications processed in 2014 from Mozambique, Lesotho, Malawi, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ghana, India, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Burundi and Uganda. 

According to UNHCR, the asylum system in South Africa is overwhelmed and can't offer good quality operations. This is partly because the country lacks a comprehensive immigration system, and migrants might abuse of the asylum process to gain access to the country. Yet this affects also refugees and asylum seekers, the majority of which  "have fled the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the security situation in Somalia or are individuals who claim to have faced persecution in Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe" [1]. In July 2014, the government applied new regulations which raised new obstacles for immigrants, and also made asylum applications harder. This might explain the high rejection rates of the country. For example, asylum-seekers who arrive in the country have only five days to present their applications. And the whole country has only 3 reception offices where first-time migrants can do so.

According to UNHCR data, Australia is the fourth country in the world for rejection rates. And the first among Western countries. For the report, it rejected the refugee status to almost 80% of the 13K asylum applications processed in 2014.

Incoming Asylum Seekers: Total Processed Application Reported and Percentage of Rejected Applications Processed

Note: Charts filters out flows with less than 1,000 Asylum requests processed. You can change or remove this threshold by clicking "Explore"

Australia has a strict law on unauthorized immigration, even when it comes to refugees, asylum seekers and people fleeing from persecution. Other than the high rate of rejected asylum applications, the Australian stance on immigration has been criticized largely by the UN and human rights organizations like Amnesty International.

The number of asylum applications filed to the Australian authorities are actually only a fraction of all the asylum seekers and refugees who try to reach the country. In 2013 the Labor government passed Operation Sovereign Borders. This zero-tolerance policy, under military control, contemplates "turnback operations". When Australian border authorities sight migrants, they will send them back out of national waters. Either on the boat they came from or on "inflatable dinghies or lifeboats" provided for this. The UNHCR openly criticized this operation, which violates international laws requiring that "no individual can be returned involuntarily to a country in which he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution". 

So far Australia has returned several boats to Sri Lanka, a controversial practice that might place the country in breach of international laws, as it contained Tamil asylum seekers likely to be persecuted at home

As the boats are towed out of Australian waters back to other countries, it gets harder and harder for asylum seekers to find relief in Australia. And even if they do manage to file and application and are recognized as refugees, they still won't make it to Australia. In 2013, the Prime Minister Rudd announced that "From now on, any asylum seeker who arrives in Australia by boat will have no chance of being settled in Australia as refugees".

Currently, people recognized by the authorities as refugees are given the internationally required "protection" by being resettled in camps elsewhere, like in Nauru, Papua New Guinea and from this year also Cambodia. This practice is setting a troubling precedent in shifting the burden of the refugee crisis on less developed countries. Last year, about 42% of the world's refugees were hosted by countries where the GDP PPP per capita is less than $5,000.

Incoming Refugees to GDP (PPP) per capita and Incoming Refugees to 1,000 inhabitants

Percentage of Rejected Asylum Requests of all the 2014 Decisions, by Country of Origin. Filtered for Australia as Destination

Change the filters to see how countries responded to refugees from other countries.

Note: the data presented here is about the "population of concern to UNHCR [...]. This includes persons who are forcibly displaced (refugees, asylum-seekers, IDPs, etc.), those who have found a durable solution (returnees), as well stateless persons, most of whom have never been forcibly displaced. This categorization is neither identical to nor synonymous for the 59.5 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide, a figure that not only includes refugees and IDPs beyond UNHCR’s mandate but also excludes returnees and stateless persons."

Read this page for more information on definitions used in this Silk.

How to Use This Silk: Browse the charts and maps below. Use the filters to customize the information shown. Click "Explore" anywhere on the site to go into visualization mode. Here you can change the type of chart, the variables plotted, and the filter options. When you see or create a graph you like, you can share it in a few clicks on social media. Or even embed the (responsive) graphs online in your blogs and articles. Search for individual pages or entities in the top search box.

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The Refugee Crisis in Data by Alice Corona is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.