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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
Forced displacement
© Maciej Moskwa/Testigo documentary
Forced displacement

Refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons (IDPs)


Every year, millions of people are forced to leave their homes due to conflict, violence, human rights violations, persecution, disasters, and the impacts of climate change. The number of forcibly displaced persons reached unprecedented heights in 2023, calling for increased humanitarian assistance.

By the end of June 2023, 110 million people were displaced worldwide, while UNHCR projects that there will be more than 130 million forcibly displaced persons in 2024.

Around 52% of all these refugees originated from only 3 countries: Syria, Ukraine, and Afghanistan.

The EU is the leading international donor in situations of forced displacement.

What are the needs?

Up to 75% of those forcibly displaced are hosted in low- or middle-income countries, which puts a strain on host communities and resources. Their survival depends on the availability of assistance provided by the authorities, local communities, and humanitarian organisations.

Refugees, asylum seekers, vulnerable migrants, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) often face protection challenges and they lack access to shelter, food, and other basic services.

This can be a result of their fragile legal status in the countries where they are currently living. The most vulnerable people are often hard to reach, as they try to avoid violence, exploitation, abuse, detention, or arrest.

Forced displacement 01
Russia’s war against Ukraine has caused massive forced displacement
© People in Need, 2022 (photographer: Alberto Lores)

In urban areas, they struggle with poverty, lack of psychosocial support and various challenges in normalising their legal status. Violence, abuse, and exploitation against them often peak in the aftermath of new emergencies.

Finding durable solutions for the forcibly displaced is a challenge. Voluntary repatriation to their home countries is the preferred long-term outcome for refugees, but the lack of political solutions to conflicts, recurrent violence, and instability prevent many from doing so.

Forced displacement is no longer a temporary phenomenon, as it has become increasingly protracted. Displacement lasts 20 years on average for refugees and more than 10 years for most IDPs.

How are we helping?

The EU is a leading international donor in situations of forced displacement. In 2023, the European Commission allocated most of its humanitarian budget of €1.7 billion to projects that addressed the needs of forcibly displaced persons and their host communities.

This funding helped meet the most urgent needs of extremely vulnerable populations, including women, children, and people with disabilities. It protected and supported them during displacement and when returning to their homes.

Projects implemented on the ground helped the forcibly displaced access shelter, protection, food, and basic services such as health care, nutritional assistance, safe water, sanitation, and education.

About 35% of the humanitarian aid reached forcibly displaced persons in the form of cash transfers (debit cards, mobile transfers, and cash in hand). Cash provides displaced populations with a sense of dignity and independence and serves to tighten links with local communities, as aid money is spent in small local businesses.

More than half of the projects in education in emergencies supported targeted refugee and internally displaced children.

Examples of EU humanitarian aid to forcibly displaced people

EU assistance to the forcibly displaced is making a difference in the lives of many:

  • Syrian refugees in Türkiye, Lebanon, and Jordan;
  • Ukrainian refugees in Poland, Romania, and Moldova;
  • Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan;
  • Somali refugees in Kenya;
  • Congolese refugees in the Great Lakes region;
  • Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the region;
  • Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh;
  • unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable groups of refugees, IDPs, migrants and asylum seekers in North Africa.

EU humanitarian aid also targets IDPs in Syria, Nigeria, South Sudan, Iraq, Ethiopia, and Yemen, among others.

In April 2016, the European Commission adopted the Communication 'Lives in Dignity: from Aid-dependence to Self-reliance. Forced Displacement and Development', which presented a development-led approach to forced displacement.

The objective is to strengthen the resilience and self-reliance of both the displaced and their host communities, working with host governments and local actors to support the gradual socio-economic inclusion of refugees and IDPs.

The approach aims to harness the productive capacities of refugees and IDPs by helping them access education, health care, housing, land, livelihood support, legal protection, and other basic services.

The EU also funds partners (including the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Danish Refugee Council) to support people in mixed migration settings such as in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. These partners help strengthen community protection networks (composed of IDPs and representatives from host communities) and local legal providers.

Partnerships and policy

The Commission channels its financial support into addressing forced displacement situations through organisations dealing with refugees, IDPs, migrants and host communities on the ground. Its main humanitarian partners include the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and non-governmental organisations.

To ensure more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing among states, the EU supports the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees. Adopted in 2018, the Global Compact builds on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), which was rolled out in several countries in 2017 and 2018 for greater support to refugees and host countries. The EU took part in the 2023 Global Refugee Forum, during which it announced 15 ambitious and forward-looking pledges.

The EU strongly supports the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, and systematically promotes the inclusion of these principles in international and national law. In addition, the EU supported the work of the United Nations Secretary-General’s (UNSG) High Level Panel on Internal Displacement, which submitted its recommendations in September 2021, and resulted in the launch in June 2022 of the UNSG Action Agenda on Internal Displacement.

From July 2022 to December 2023, the EU held the Presidency of the Platform on Disaster Displacement, a state-led initiative working towards better protection for people displaced as a result of disasters and climate change.

Last updated: 18/01/2024

Facts & figures

110 million forcibly displaced people worldwide:

  • 36.4 million refugees
  • 62.5 million internally displaced
  • 6.1 million asylum seekers

Around 2/3 of refugees live in poverty.

75% of refugees are hosted in low- and middle-income countries and 20% in least developed countries.

Top 3 refugee hosting countries:

  • Iran (3.4 million)
  • Türkiye (3.4 million)
  • Germany (2.5 million)

3.1 million displaced people returned to their areas or countries of origin between January and June 2023, including:

  • 2.7 million internally displaced people
  • 404,000 refugees.

European Commission humanitarian funding:
Most of the humanitarian budget of €1.7 billion spent to help forcibly displaced populations and their host communities in 2023.