The world's worst refugee crises

The large-scale displacement triggered by the civil war in Syria is one of the largest human tragedies since World War II

More than 500,000 people have crossed into Europe by sea and land so far this year. Many of those making the arduous journey are fleeing the civil war in Syria, now in its fifth year.

Here are some of the major refugee crises in history.

World War II (1939-1945)

A 1932 photo of citizens of Helsinki waiting at the railway station to go away to places of safety in Norway and Sweden. Photo: The Hindu Archives

60 million people were displaced, including roughly 12 million Germans

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (since 1948)

This Jan. 31, 2014 photo released by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk line up to receive food supplies, in Damascus, Syria. Photo: AP

5.1 million people have fled their homes since the conflict began.

5.1 million Palestinian refugees live in 60 camps across West Asia.

Korean War (1950-53)

Refugees flee across a river from advancing North Korean troops. Photo: The Hindu Archives

One million to 5 million were forced to flee when war raged between the two Koreas

Vietnam War (1955-75)

Vietnamese mother pleading for help for her sick baby through an interpreter. The photo was published in National Georgraphic magazine. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Three million were displaced by the two-decade-long Vietnam war, in which Communist guerrillas fought U.S.-backed forces

Wars in Afghanistan (since 1979)

Afghanistan refugees sleep in Victoria square at the center of Athens after arriving aboard passenger ships from Lesbos Island, Greece. File photo: Reuters

2.6 million have fled the country since Soviet invasion of 1979

Yugoslavia conflict (1991-95)

2.7 million were displaced by the four-year ethnic conflicts fought inside the territory of the former Yugoslavia

Somalia (since 1991)

Somalian refugees wait in line for food in a camp at the Tunisia-Libyan border, in Ras Ajdir, Tunisia on March 12, 2011. Photo: AP

1.1 million have been driven out by war since the overthrow of the Siad Barre regime in 1991

Rwanda (1994)

Refugee camp for Rwandans in Kimbumba, eastern Zaire (current Democratic Republic of the Congo), following the Rwandan genocide. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

3.5 million have been internally displaced, including 2 million who fled a genocidal mass slaughter by members of the Hutu majority in 1994

Democratic Republic of Congo (1996-98)

516,800 have been forced to flee owing to two wars since 1996

Iraq (2003-present)

Iraqi women and children waiting to cross the border. File photo. Photo: AP

4 million have been internally displaced since the war launched by the U.S. in 2003

Syria (2011-present)

Syrian refugees and other migrants are stopped by Macedonian police at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, August 22, 2015. Photo: Reuters

11.6 million have left their homes. The ongoing civil war has forced 4 million to flee the country. Another 7.6 million are internally displaced

Central African Republic (2012)

850,000 refugees since the civil war in CAR, which began in December 2012 between government forces and the Seleka Muslim rebel coalition

Myanmar (2012)

In this May 13, 2013 photo, an internally displaced Rohingya woman holds her newborn baby near makeshift tents at a camp for Rohingya people in Sittwe. Photo: AP

479,000 people have been displaced since violence erupted in Rakhine State in 2012, when 140,000 people fled their homes.

South Sudan (2013)

Soldiers of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) assist displaced civilians in Juba. Photo: AP

1.55 million have sought refuge. With 800,000 internally displaced and 255,000 fleeing to neighbouring countries owing to the two-year-long civil war between the government of President Salva Kiir and opposition forces


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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 5:02:53 AM |

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