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Where Do Refugees Come From and Where Do They Go?



If you live in the U.S., you probably saw President Barack Obama’s crankypants press conference on Friday about immigration—he is a little shirty (we don’t use the term “shirty” enough, team) that Congress isn’t doing its job to find money to process all the child migrants who are being intercepted at the southern U.S. border, many of whom have valid claims of asylum. At the same time, you’ve probably heard a lot of “FORTIFY THE BORDER!” “MAKE THE WALL HIGHER!” and “WHAT IF WE MADE THE BORDER OUT OF SLIP ‘N’ SLIDE MATERIAL?” coming from people who think the U.S. is “full enough, thanks.”

So it might come as a surprise to hear that in 2013, Germany actually had the most asylum claims in the world, at 109,600, leaving the U.S. in the dust at 88,400 (Chant with me: “USA! WE’RE. NUMBER. TWO!”). You might also be interested to know that even countries literally surrounded by a moat (take Australia, for example) are engaging in similar debates about how to deal with waves of refugees.

But it shouldn’t be surprising, given widespread unrest outside our cosy internet caves: As of 2010, there were 43.7 million displaced people worldwide, according to the UNHCR. They are often refugees of war/terrorism/civil war (Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo, Somalia, Sri Lanka), political asylum (China, North Korea, Burma) or violence from the drug trade (Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador), but more recently we have seen the beginnings of “climate-change refugees”―think people starving in countries that cannot produce enough food due to drought, or citizens of countries that are disappearing under rising sea levels. All these people have to go somewhere, so let’s look at how countries around the world are dealing with refugee crises…

(There is a bonus if you get to the end!)

Source note: A great debt is owed to statistics from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Topics: Life
Tags: slideshows, maps, pakistan, immigration, syria, serbia, iraq, russia, illustrated slideshows, human rights, sparksplainers, refugees, afghanistan, somalia, central america, nepal, bumper issues

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About the Author
H. Alan Scott

I'm a writer/comedian based in LA and NYC. My work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Thought Catalog,, MTV, Logo, Splitsider, The Advocate Magazine,, Sirius XM Radio, WitStream, and my Mom's refrigerator. Oprah said my name. In 2012 I got cancer. I tweeted/blogged about it with #Chemocation for various media outlets. Follow and support #Chemocation at

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