Today’s refugee population, at 15 million worldwide, is more than seven times the number of European refugees in the UNHCR’s caseload when the agency was created 60 years ago, following World War II. The three countries bearing the largest number of refugees all border warzones: Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, at 1.9 million, and Iran and Syria, both bordering Iraq, at 1.1 million and 1 million respectively.
If there is confusion over refugees, it may have something to do with the fact that there are so many definitions and acronyms to contend with.
Conflating these different categories of people is an unfortunately common practice, whether intentional or otherwise, and can create xenophobia and put pressure on host nations to close up their doors. But closing a door does little to resolve the initial cause of mass displacement, and it can have disastrous effects on some of the world’s most vulnerable citizens.