The numbers of people fleeing wars and armed conflicts are higher than ever. Hence, in 2021, before the war in Ukraine, the EU hosted less than 10% of refugees worldwide. In the footsteps of the myth of a "Europe with open arms", the numbers of the European Council and the International Organization for Migration.
In 2019, attempting to speak to the logic of French and European public opinion, the special envoy of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Vincent Cochetel, declared to the French newspaper la CROIX : We have to break the myth that all refugees want to come to Europe: 85% of them, across the world, are in the countries of first asylum, which border their countries of origin”.
"The majority of refugees come to the European Union", is currently one of the most popular myths circulating in public opinion, in the media and in political discussions in the EU. Accompanied by strong terms such as "invasion", "floods", etc., this myth has aroused fear and is easily believed, even though only 0.6% of the population in the EU consisted of refugees at the end of 2021. One of the lowest numbers in the world.
But what say the numbers more precisely?
How many refugees are there in the EU?
The situation has been more than dramatic for more than two decades. In 2020, before the Ukraine war, the number of people who had crossed an international border to seek refuge in a country other than their country of origin due to a war or a conflict (the official definition of the term "refugee"), was the highest recorded. “By the end of 2020, there were a total of 26.4 million refugees, the highest on record”1,- says the latest report (2022) from the IOM (World Organization for Migration).
A year later, in 2021, the number and situation of refugees has become even more dramatic, with an additional 700,000 people. According to the European Council (EC), “based on data provided by UNHCR, at the end of 2021 there were 27.1 million refugees globally.
53.2 million people are internally displaced (due to conflict or violence)2 ».
Despite all this, the EU remained an inacessible fortress.
Contrary to the myth that most refugees reach it, the figures show something else: not only has the EU been sought out and reached by a modest number of refugees, but also that the most powerful economic grouping in the world is doing very little effort to host them.
“Facts to consider : at the end of 2021, less than 10% of all refugees worldwide and only a fraction of displaced people were living in the EU. Refugees accounted for 0.6% of the total EU population”2, - states the European Council on its website.
“The massive influx” of refugees is a myth with perverse effects, - says Robin Stünzi, researcher and doctoral student at the Unine Migration Center (University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland).
Of course, a very significant number of people arrived in Europe to seek asylum in 2014 … and in 2015 … but we are too blinded by our Eurocentrism to put these figures into international perspective. Sixty million people are currently forcibly displaced globally and more than 80% of them are in developing countries. Europe is therefore only very marginally affected by this phenomenon... On a human level, the results of such a policy are catastrophic: thus, history will remember that more than 20,000 men, women and children have, in two decades, paid with their lives their attempt to enter European territory”.
Where do the refugees live?
According to the EC, "several countries in the world welcome an important number of refugees". Moreover, it is the poorest or developing countries that continue to bear the brunt of this human drama being played out in the open, in the sky, on land and in the seas, and that has cost thousands of human lives.
To understand the situation more clearly, experts advise that the absolute number of refugees found in a country should be placed in balance to its population and its economic strength. If we look carefully at chart number 12, taken from the official website of the EC, poor or developing countries in development such as Lebanon, Uganda, Sudan, etc. have a much higher percentage of refugees being compared to their population than that of EU. In Lebanon, this percentage is 12.5, in Sudan 2.5, etc. The only EU country where the presence of refugees is quite higher than its average of 0.6% is Germany, with 1.5%. “In 2020, according to UNHCR, the least developed countries – such as Bangladesh, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Sudan, the Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen – hosted 27 per cent of the global total (6.7 million refugees)”1, - the IOM report points out.
Why such a low percentage in the EU?
Leaving aside the analysis of European coldness (except in the case of Germany) towards the drama of refugees, it is the latter who prefer not to stray too far from their country of birth. "Most of the refugees of Africa and Asia do not come in Europe, they get installed rather in the neighboring countries", confirm all the data of the CE, IOM and UNHCR. According to the latest IOM report (2022), 73% of refugees took refuge in their neighboring countries in 2020. About 3.6 million refugees, the vast majority Syrian, are sheltered in Turkey. The latter is the largest host country for refugees in the world, for the fifth year in a row. The list of 10 countries that have hosted the highest number of refugees is continued by Syria's other neighbor, Lebanon, followed by Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Uganda, Germany, Sudan, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia make up the rest, according to the same report.
*This article does not consider the numbers of refugees of the war in Ukraine (2022), because these numbers were not yet part of the last annual reports, published in 2022, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees).
1 McAuliffe, M. et A. Triandafyllidou (éd.), 2021. Rapport État de la migration dans le monde 2022. Organisation internationale pour les migrations (OIM), Genève. file:///C:/Users/Administrator/Downloads/WMR-2022-FR-CH-2_1.pdf
2 Site officiel d’Commission européenne. Les immigrants dans la société européenne – Chiffres globaux, janvier 2023.
“This article is produced as part of the "Migration, youth and internet - 2" project, with the support of funds from the French Development Agency (AFD), Grand Est Solidarités et Coopérations pour le Développement (GESCOD) and with the support of the AMI-PLUS association. The sources of the information are quoted, and when a personal opinion is given, it engages only the author. The content of the articles does not engage the previously named structures".