Refugee and migrant crisis

Fatem, refugee from Syria, was selected to go to Italy with her family through a humanitarian visas programme. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

Border closures and restrictions have dramatically worsened the situation for the most vulnerable people seeking protection and safety in Europe. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

Every single day, families around the world are being forced from their homes. In search of safety and a better life, they are risking everything to escape conflict, disaster, poverty, or hunger, often leaving with nothing but the clothes they are wearing.

Migration is not a threat to be stopped, it is a complex phenomenon to be managed. But governments have been failing to meet their legal and moral obligations to provide safety and assistance to vulnerable people in need of protection.

The long search for sanctuary

While displacement is not a new phenomenon, the scale of the current crisis is unprecedented. Right now, there are more than 82 million people in the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes – the highest figure recorded by the United Nations since the Second World War. Most people are displaced within their country of origin or remain close to it.

Among this growing displaced population are more than 26 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18, and 48 million internally displaced persons, who fled to other areas of their own countries.

The crisis in numbers


Forced displacement has doubled since 2010 (41 million then vs 82 million now).


80 per cent of the world’s displaced people are in countries affected by acute food insecurity and malnutrition.


One in five displaced women living in humanitarian crisis and armed conflict have experienced gender-based violence.


Five countries account for two-thirds of people displaced across borders: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.


Syria is accounting on its own for 13.2 million refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people, fully a sixth of the world’s total.

Why people flee

Behind these figures – almost too large to comprehend – sit the painful, personal but also resilient stories of individuals and families who have seen their lives destroyed by circumstances beyond their control.

Hunger, extreme poverty, and the growing threat of climate change in addition to violence, conflict, and persecution are leaving people with no choice but to flee. They have lost their homes, their jobs and sometimes their loved ones. And often they are forced to seek refuge in other countries where they may face further discrimination and similar problems caused by lack of acceptance.

Women and girls are impacted the most. They are at greater risk from gender-based violence, with refugee women twice as vulnerable to sexual violence.

Barry (34) is a mother of four from Barsologho, in Burkina Faso. After escaping with her family from the violence of armed groups, leaving everything behind, she was hosted by a family in the village of Sera, 70 km away from her hometown. Thanks to a cash grant received by Oxfam partner ATAD, she was able to start a new business and become autonomous. She now lives in her own house. (Photo: Oxfam)

Oxfam’s work with refugees and migrants

Everyone has the right to be safe and to be treated with dignity. Oxfam works with refugees and migrants to help protect people on the move who, when leaving home, are often in the most vulnerable moment of their lives.

We help displaced people with immediate basic needs for clean water, shelter, food, and work, but we also advocate for their long-term well-being, both in their own nations and in the countries that host them:

  • We engage with allies and government to find inclusive and sustainable solutions to the conflict and violence that impact so many lives;
  • We push for wealthy countries to be more responsive to this global crisis and to do their fair share by responding to the needs of refugees and welcoming them for resettlement;
  • We advocate for public policies that protect the rights of displaced families as they strive to rebuild their lives and guarantee their children a better future.

You can help refugees and displaced people by supporting Oxfam’s humanitarian and advocacy work around the world.