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These 10 countries receive the most refugees

Turkey has provided protection to more refugees than any other country in the last ten years. But in terms of refugees as a proportion of the total population, no country comes close to Lebanon. Here are the ten countries that have received the most refugees in relation to their population during the period 2011–2020.

This article was first published in November 2020. It was updated on 23 June 2021 to include the 2020 figures.


1. Lebanon – 19.5 per cent of the total population

Lebanon, with a population of 6.8 million, is currently hosting an estimated 1.5 million refugees from Syria. The real number is probably even higher because the national authorities demanded that the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) stop the registration of new refugees in 2015. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees live in the country.

Lebanon itself has been ravaged by a civil war that lasted from 1975 until 1990. It is a densely populated country with a fragile political balance between different ethnic and religious groups.

In 2019 and 2020, the situation has gone from bad to worse, with large-scale popular protests eventually leading to the Prime Minister’s resignation. Unemployment is sky-high and the country’s currency has dropped in value by 85 per cent, meaning much of the population is no longer able to afford the necessities of survival. Recent surveys put more than 50 per cent of the population below the poverty line. For Syrian refugees, the figure is even higher, with 83 per cent living below the extreme poverty line.

On top of an already difficult situation came the Covid-19 pandemic and the Beirut explosion, which killed more than 200 people, wounded more than 6,000 and displaced around 300,000.

Lebanon now has an urgent need for the rest of the world to step up and help the country that has taken the greatest responsibility for helping displaced people.


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2. Jordan – 10.5 per cent

Jordan has received over one million refugees in the last ten years. The vast majority were fleeing neighbouring Syria. While a comparatively small number have since decided to return to Syria or have been able to resettle in other countries, there are still more than 660,000 Syrian refugees registered with the UN refugee agency living in Jordan today.

Over 80 per cent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in urban centres where they face the challenge of finding sustainable work and affordable housing. Competition for limited employment opportunities can lead to tensions with the local population. The remaining 20 per cent of Syrian refugees live in one of two refugee camps, established by the Jordanian authorities for Syrian refugees and managed by the UN refugee agency.

Jordan also houses 2.3 million Palestinian refugees. These are people who fled or were expelled from their country during the 1947-49 Palestine war and the Six Day War in 1967, and their descendants.

3. Nauru – 5.9 per cent

This small island state has received boat refugees who were trying to get to Australia when Australian authorities refused to accept them. The UN refugee agency has been highly critical of the agreement Australia has made with Nauru and other countries and is concerned about the reprehensible conditions the refugees live under. Australia has now agreed to stop sending refugees to Nauru.

4. Turkey – 5.0 per cent

Turkey has received more refugees than any other country since 2011 – as many as 4.3 million. Turkey is a large and populous country and is better equipped to handle the challenge than, for example, Lebanon. Nevertheless, it is challenging to provide protection to such a large number of people within a few short years.

Turkey signed an agreement with the European Union (EU) in 2016 that prevents refugees from moving on to Europe. This has had serious consequences for both the refugees who have made it to Greece and those who remain in Turkey.

5. Liberia – 4.1 per cent

Liberia is another country that has shown great hospitality to displaced people. It has received 212,000 refugees, even while the country itself was in a difficult situation.

Liberia went through a long and bloody civil war just a few years before it opened its doors to refugees from the Ivory Coast. It was also hit hard by Ebola, which meant that refugees from the neighbouring country could not return home as quickly as the UN refugee agency had planned.

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6. Uganda – 3.7 per cent

Uganda has received 1.7 million refugees over the last ten years and is one of the largest recipients of refugees in the world. In recent years, Uganda has provided protection to people from DR Congo and South Sudan in particular, but the country has also received refugees from Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda and several other countries. Uganda is a pioneer in integrating refugees and giving them full rights.

7. Malta – 2.7 per cent

Malta is the Western country that has received the most refugees relative to its population. The country is located near the coast of North Africa and receives many refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe from Libya. The pressure has become even greater since Italy has made it almost impossible for rescue vessels to dock at its own ports.

8. Sudan – 2.6 per cent

With over one million refugees since 2010, Sudan is the fifth largest recipient country in absolute numbers. Most have fled the conflict in neighbouring South Sudan. Sudan is also a key transit country for refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, among others, who are trying to flee to Europe. 

9. Sweden – 2.6 per cent

Sweden has long had the most generous refugee policy in Europe and, unlike many other countries, has actively welcomed refugees. But the large influx of refugees to Europe in 2015, where many European countries were unwilling to share the responsibility, led the government to introduce a temporary law that limited the rights of refugees to a minimum of what the country has committed itself to through international conventions. Despite this, Sweden still received far more refugees than most European countries.

10. South Sudan – 2.5 per cent

Although South Sudan is better known for its own displaced population, it is also home to more than 300,000 refugees from neighbouring countries. Most are refugees from Sudan who fled conflict in the border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile in the years after South Sudan gained its independence in 2011.

Other major recipient countries

In addition to these ten countries that have received the most refugees relative to their population, there are certain populous countries that have received a large number of refugees during this period and have contributed positively to giving many people a secure future.

The most important of these countries are;

  • Germany – 1,265,000 refugees (1.5% of the total population)
  • Ethiopia – 943,000 (0.8%)
  • United States – 773,000 (0.23%)
  • Bangladesh – 675,000 (0.4%)
  • Kenya – 394,000 (0.7%)
  • Russia – 453,000 (0.3%)
  • Cameroon – 416,000 (1.5%)

See also: A few countries take responsibility for most of the world’s refugees


This article was first published in November 2020. It was updated on 23 June 2021 to include the 2020 figures.