The Coronavirus Pandemic and the Refugee Crisis [Infographic]

By Alice Corner, Jun 17, 2020

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One group of people who are impacted the most by the Coronavirus Pandemic is the world’s population of refugees and displaced people. 

There are approximately 25 million refugees in the world, facing unique struggles in access to healthcare, government assistance, and sanitation.

We analyzed the data to help paint a fuller picture of COVID-19’s impact on the refugee crisis.

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The Scale of the Refugee Crisis

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It is estimated there are roughly 70.8 million forcibly displaced people around the world. 25 million people are refugees. 

37,000 people a day are forced to flee their homes due to conflict and persecution. For context, Oprah Winfrey has interviewed about 37,000 people on her talk show from 1986 to 2011

57% of the world’s refugees come from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.

The amount of people displaced across the world has more than doubled in the last 20 years, and the trend is set to continue. 

Who Are Refugees?

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Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their home country and cross national borders in search of safety. Refugees often leave their homes to escape war, famine, or persecution. 

80% of all refugees live in neighboring countries to their country of origin. Two thirds of all refugees come from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

Because 80% of refugees settle in neighboring countries, a disproportionate number of refugees are living in low to middle income countries. 6.7 million refugees, a third of all refugees, are living in the world’s poorest countries

Children of refugees are more than 5 times less likely to be in school than their peers; and out of the 2.7 million refugees in South Sudan currently, 80% are women and children.  

Whilst the world has stood still to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, refugees haven’t had the same luxury. 

In late May 2020, 400 people attempted to flee Libya by boat, and there are at least 75,000 people outside of the United States awaiting their immigration trials–which have been put on hold indefinitely due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

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What Challenges do Refugees Face from COVID-19?

Refugees face unique challenges in a pandemic that many of us will not have even considered. Alongside settling in countries with poor health infrastructure out of necessity, refugees may have language barriers in accessing what healthcare is available to them. 
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Many refugees will also be separated from their families and support networks. In South Sudan there are 50,000 lone children refugees without guardians to advocate for their safety or wellbeing. 

In many countries, refugees and asylum seekers aren’t entitled to public funds, or are not legally able to work. In the UK, refugees are only entitled to £5 a day ($6.28 USD) a day from the British Government. If refugees do work and have lost their job due to Coronavirus they may not be able to access any governmental help. 

Outside of already settled people, many refugees have had their immigration applications put on indefinite hold. So far 167 countries have fully or partially closed their borders to contain the spread of the virus. At least 57 states are making no exception for people seeking asylum.

2.6 million refugees live in “camps”–makeshift settlements with insecure access to running water, healthcare, proper sanitation, and even sometimes internet. Refugee camps are often overcrowded and face hostility from locals and law enforcement. It is impossible to practice proper social distancing in overcrowded environments.

WHO advice to prevent spread of Coronavirus

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) outlines clear guidance to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus:

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and clean water
  • Avoid crowded places, and practice social distancing
  • Stay home and isolate if you have symptoms

Staying home and isolating yourself is difficult when you don’t have a safe home.

Coronavirus has been identified as being present in refugee camps in Bangladesh and is suspected to be spreading in Sudan. But we are unlikely to know the full extent of COVID’s impact on refugees for some time.

Due to EU regulations, refugees must apply for asylum in the first country they land in – a rule commonly referred to as “First Country. But refugees often have to travel across several borders before reaching a country that is willing to welcome them. This means that refugees travel under the radar, may not be accounted for in official government numbers, and can put off seeking medical assistance to avoid alerting authorities to their presence.

In the US we talk about undocumented migrants, a group of people who are unable to access healthcare or government assistance without facing deportation. Accessing healthcare or governmental support if they become ill or lose their job can be a risk.

And for those held in (often overcrowded) detention centers across the US, Coronavirus is a serious concern as well. In one facility in early May 98 detainees were found to be infected with COVID-19. 

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How Can I Help in the Refugee Crisis?

Whilst we still don’t fully know the impact that Coronavirus is having on the world’s population of refugees, it’s never too early to take action. There are ways we can all support refugees.

Donate

Every dollar helps. Donating to charities that provide housing, services and goods to refugees is a great way to give back. If it’s not money, you can donate items such as clothing and food. Some suggested organizations:

Sign a Petition

If you’re unable to donate, there are many other ways to help. Signing a petition to push countries to accept more refugees helps to raise awareness. It doesn’t take much time or energy, but can be the catalyst to create change. 

Volunteer

Volunteering locally or intentionally gets you at the forefront of change. You can share your time and expertise with organizations to help with career skills, health access, or cultural experiences. 

Fundraising Events

It may require effort but the pay back will always be great. It can be an online fundraiser on social media, a marathon or a yard sale – you can be creative with your ideas. Don’t underestimate the power in your efforts, any amount that you raise will help. 

Host Refugees in Your Home

If you’re a homeowner you can offer a refugee family to live rent free until they adjust or offer a room in your home. Open Homes by airbnb allows volunteer hosts to offer their homes for free. You can take a look at the UNHCR’s series of stories that highlight people who host refugees in Europe for inspiration. 

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Data visualization is a powerful communication tool. Words don’t always paint the clearest picture. Raw data doesn’t always tell the most compelling story.

Learn how to create powerful and persuasive data visualizations and infographics with our resources:

About Alice Corner

Alice works at Venngage and she makes content. She loves pop culture, social media, and really good design.