Measuring International Migration: The Real Picture of Forced Displacement

In recent years we have heard that displacement has reached historic and unprecedented levels – it has been common to note that 65 million people are now forcibly displaced. Intrigued by these claims, Seefar collated widely published data on the issue and explored exactly what they say about displacement.

Displaced people – What is the real crisis? The numbers behind the noise investigate how displacement has changed since the end of the Second World War and what the facts say about the composition of the ‘migration crisis’.

To fill in a portrait of forced displacement, we:

  • Examined in detail each category of forcibly displaced people: refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, and stateless persons.
  • Analyzed the world’s capacity — in terms of population and wealth — to cope with displacement over time.

Key findings:

  • Within the recorded 65 million people, there are only two categories that strongly influence the total number: refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Other categories are historically low.
  • The number of refugees in 2015 surpassed by 2% the number of refugees in 1992.
  • IDPs, as a category of displaced people not crossing an international border, are at their highest level ever recorded. However, their records started only in 1990 and data collection, while improving, is patchy.
  • Data collection methods in other areas also merit investigation. The recording of stateless persons who have never been forcibly displaced can be misleading.
  • Using an indicator of ‘wealth capacity per refugee’, we can see that in relative terms the refugee challenge is half that facing the world in 1992. We can also see that the greatest refugee ‘burden’ lies with Pakistan, not Turkey.
  • The real crisis lies behind global migration management, which calls for
    a) a better distribution of funding for support to dependent refugee populations; and
    b) the differentiation of categories to better frame the problem, with extra attention given to IDPs.

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