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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

Liz Cheney: Americans deserve better than choice of Biden or Trump

Rep. Liz Cheney talks with Lesley Stahl on CBS' "60 Minutes." Photo: CBS News

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday that Americans "deserve better than having to choose between" President Biden's "disastrous" policies and former President Trump, "who violated his oath of office."

Why it matters: Cheney made the remarks after CBS' Lesley Stahl put it to her in the interview that Republicans feel that her joining the House select committee in charge of investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot helps "keep the focus on Trump instead of on the shortcomings of the Biden administration."

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: The LCV's $4M ad buy

A screenshot from a new League of Conservation Voters ad supporting Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

The League of Conservation Voters and Climate Power are aiming another $4 million worth of ads at centrist House Democrats, urging them to support the climate provisions in President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Progressive groups are trying to counter the onslaught of conservative money pouring into swing districts. Both sides are trying to define Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda and pressure lawmakers to support — or oppose — the legislation scheduled for a vote in the House this week.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Shutdown Plan B

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Senate will hold a futile vote Monday night — just 72 hours before a potential shutdown — on a House-passed bill to fund the government through Dec. 3 and raise the debt limit.

Why it matters: The bill is going to fail. Period. But then comes Plan B: A "clean" continuing resolution — stripped of language about raising the debt limit — that Democrats spent the past week preparing, Axios is told.