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Expand chart
Data: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Note: Figures include only UNHCR-registered persons, and exclude asylum seekers and undocumented persons. Map: Chris Canipe/Axios

European nations and the U.S. may have developed the rules for refugees in the 1951 Refugee Convention, but developing nations host 85% of the world's refugees, according to UNHCR.

Why it matters: "The biggest misconception is that America is bearing a disproportionate share of the burden," David Miliband, president and CEO of International Rescue Committee and former secretary of state for foreign affairs in the U.K., told Axios.

Think about this: One-third of people living in Jordan and one-quarter of those in Lebanon are refugees, mostly from Palestine and Syria, according to UNHCR.

"Imagine if the entire population of Canada and a third of Mexico would empty into the U.S. — that’s exactly what Jordan is going through."
Jenny Yang, senior vice president at World Relief

The top 5 destinations for refugees in 2017 were:

  • Turkey: 3.5 million refugees were in the country in 2017. Most have fled the war in neighboring Syria. Turkey's unstable economy, however, is leading to some tension between the Turkish people and refugees.
  • Pakistan: 1.4 million people. Almost all of them have escaped ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. While the government has been welcoming "over the last few years, there has really been a targeted campaign to make Afghan refugees feel insecure in Pakistan," Madiha Afzal, a Brookings Institution fellow, told CNN.
  • Uganda: Millions have fled from South Sudan as a civil war continues to rage.
  • Lebanon: Nearly 1 million people came from neighboring Syria alone.
  • Iran: Afghanistan was the primary source of nearly 1 million refugees in 2017.

While refugee rights advocates praised nations like Jordan, Colombia and Uganda for openly welcoming refugees, they also told Axios that the sheer volume of people can strain a developing nation's resources and economy.

A case study: Colombia, still recovering from a 50-year civil war, has taken in hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans on temporary residency permits.

“It’s creating a huge, huge health problem,” Colombian Ambassador to the U.S. Francisco Santos Calderón told Axios. “It’s a ticking bomb.”

  • Hospitals are filling with Venezuelan children, pregnant women and others seeking access to health care.
  • Venezuelans are taking jobs for lower pay, creating pressure on the labor market.
  • While the government has been welcoming to the refugees, there is growing discontent especially with media coverage of crimes committed by a few Venezuelans.
  • "You’re starting to hear it in the streets," the ambassador said.

Editor's note: This graphic has been updated to clarify that it illustrates the total number of UNHCR-registered refugees in a country as of 2017, not arriving in 2017, and that this does not include asylum seekers and undocumented persons.

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.