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Millions on the move

Refugee crisis Crisis Watch

There are now nearly 80 million refugees and displaced people around the world. The International Rescue Committee is providing relief to millions in war zones and other countries in crisis; in Europe, where refugees continue to seek safety; and in our 26 resettlement offices in the United States.

United Nations: There are now nearly 80 million displaced people around the world

  • New United Nations data shows that 79.5 million people were forcibly displaced by the end of 2019—almost double the number a decade ago—owing to war, violence, persecution and other emergencies.

  • These record-setting figures arrive at a time when refugees and displaced people around the world face an unimaginable double emergency: conflict and displacement itself, alongside COVID-19 and the global economic crisis it has generated.

  • New IRC analysis shows that vulnerable people in developing countries hosting the highest refugee populations need $760 million over the next six months to prevent more households from going hungry as a result of the COVID-19-triggered recession.

Read our June 18 statement

Refugee crisis briefing

More people have been forcibly displaced from their homes than at any time since World War ll. The IRC responds to some of the world's worst crises, delivering aid that saves lives while paving the way for long-term recovery.

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What is the source of the crisis?

A Syrian girl in a raincoat stands by a campfire in a refugee settlement in Greece

"2018 was a devastating year for millions around the world, with more people displaced from their homes than ever before," says Bob Kitchen, the IRC’s vice president for emergencies. 

Since civil war exploded inside Syria in 2011, millions of people have fled their homes.

Economic collapse in Venezuela has driven at least 4 million people from the country.

Gang violence in Central America is pushing families seeking safety to the U.S. border.

Somalia has been plagued by ongoing conflict and life-threatening droughts for decades.

South Sudan has been in the grip of civil war since it gained independence from Sudan in 2012.

Yemen has also been embroiled in a bitter civil war, which has left 24 million people in need of aid.

These are just a few of the crises driving historic displacement at a time when the United States is denying assistance and safety to refugees and asylum-seekers.


How is the IRC helping?

The IRC is the only international aid organization working on all fronts of the crisis.

In the Syria region: Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon: More than 2,000 IRC aid workers and local volunteers operating inside Syria and in three neighboring countries have reached millions Syrians fleeing violence with emergency relief and long-term support. We're focusing on health care, protection of vulnerable women and children, education, and economic recovery and development.

In Afghanistan:  The IRC has worked inside Afghanistan for nearly three decades and currently reaches over 4 million people in more than 4,000 communities, focusing on community-driven reconstruction projects and education. We also provide emergency relief to people who have been forced to flee their homes by violence.

A refugee women holds a small boy in a refugee settlement in Greece.

In Europe: The IRC was one of the first aid organizations to assist the thousands of refugees arriving each day on the Greek island, Lesbos. IRC aid workers continue to work around the clock in GreeceSerbia and Italy to provide essential services, including clean water and sanitation, to families living in terrible conditions. And we are helping new arrivals navigate the confusing transit process and understand their legal rights. In Germany, we are helping refugees integrate into their new communities. Learn more about refugees in Europe.
In the United States: The IRC has 26 offices across the country that resettle refugees. We are also assisting families seeking asylum at the southern U.S. border. We provide immediate aid to refugees, including food and shelter, as well as access to the tools of self-reliance: housing, job placement and employment skills, clothing, medical attention, education, English-language classes and community orientation. We're also calling for U.S. leaders to do more after the Trump administration put a travel ban in place and slashed refugee admissions to record lows. Learn more about refugees in America.

How can I help refugees?

Add your name and join us to welcome refugees to all communities. The IRC will share the letter with refugees in our offices around the world.

Stand with refugees.

A Syrian family on the landing of their new apartment in Dallas

More ways to help

Learn more about ways to help refugees and asylum seekers.


News and features

Rescue stories

  • I want to become a dancer. My favorite singer is Justin Bieber. To go to one of his concerts would be my biggest dream come true. "
    Nazia and Rolian bonded at a refugee camp in Greece over their love for dance. The two 16-year-old girls—one from Afghanistan, the other from Syria—practice Zumba moves to videos downloaded on Nazia’s mobile phone.
  • I want to work...on empowering women to speak up in our society where men are those who make decisions at home. I want women to be able to speak up without being afraid, say their opinions, make their own decisions."
    Through the IRC's Vision not Victim program, Nour, a Syrian refugee living in Jordan, was able to envision her future as a lawyer.

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