This report provides a summary overview of population statistics of the Asia and the Pacific region in 2020 from UNHCR’s Annual Statistical Report and includes trends and analysis of the major population groups, three leading focus countries and the two major displacement situations in the region.
The total number of persons of concern by end of 2020 stood at 9.8 million, a slight increase from 2019 due mainly to increases in the internally displaced population and the inclusion of assisted host community figures. There were 4 million refugees, 209,000 asylum-seekers, 2,500 returned refugees, 3.5 million internally displaced persons and 155,000 returned IDPs in the region. Persons under UNHCR’s statelessness mandate in the region by end of 2020 stood at 2.3 million.
Asia and the Pacific hosts 11 per cent of the total persons of concern to UNHCR. 19 per cent of the world’s refugee population and 55 per cent of the world’s stateless population live in the region. Globally, Pakistan and Bangladesh are among the 10 countries with the largest refugee/asylum-seeker populations while Afghanistan and Myanmar are the third and fifth country of origin of refugees and asylum-seekers. An additional 685,000 persons were identified as ‘others of concern’. Others of concern are out of the scope of this report and not included in the analysis. An additional 685,000 persons were identified as ‘others of concern’.
Compared to the previous year, the population groups with increases were the returned IDPs with 22 per cent and the number of internally displaced persons increased by 12 per cent. The number of refugees and asylum-seekers both reduced slightly by 4 per cent respectively. The largest decrease was within the refugee returnee category with 75 per cent.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
The number of refugees and asylum-seekers equally declined by 4 per cent from 2019. The drop is largely due to updated figures received from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which reported a decrease of some 178,300 refugees, mostly among registered Afghans. The previous figures were provided by the Government and last updated in 2015. Together, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Islamic Republic of Iran continue to host 13 per cent of the global total refugee population. The largest countries of origin of refugees in the region remain Afghanistan and Myanmar. There were 1.4 million refugees and asylum-seekers in Pakistan in 2020, composed primarily of the registered Afghan Proof of Registration (PoR) cardholders and 866,000 refugees in Bangladesh, predominantly Rohingya refugees from Myanmar who are also stateless. The Islamic Republic of Iran hosted 800,000 registered refugees (Amayesh and Hoviat card holders) comprising 780,000 registered Afghans and 20,000 registered Iraqis. Other refugee hosting countries in the region include China with 304,000 refugees and asylum-seekers (predominantly Vietnamese refugees registered with the Government of China), India with 207,000 (predominantly Sri Lankan and Tibetan refugees registered with the Government of India), Malaysia with 180,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers and Australia with 138,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers.
Internally displaced persons
The number of people displaced inside their own countries due to armed conflict, generalized violence or human rights violations continued to grow in 2020. There was a 12 per cent increase in the number of internally displaced persons in the region compared with 2019 figures. The changes are mainly due to increases in IDP populations with more than 300,000 newly displaced persons in Afghanistan and 63,000 newly displaced persons in Myanmar, in 2020. Afghanistan remains the country with the largest internally displaced population with 2.9 million IDPs, followed by Myanmar with 370,000 IDPs, the Philippines with 150,000 IDPs, Pakistan with 99,000 IDPs, Sri Lanka with 25,000 IDPs, and Papua New Guinea with 14,000 IDPs, as of the end of 2020. Significant new displacement within Myanmar was observed towards the end of the first quarter of 2021 following the military takeover on 1 February 2021 but is not covered in this report.
Stateless populations (displaced and non-displaced)
The number of persons not considered as nationals by any country is significantly high in the Asia and Pacific region. A total of 2.3 million persons without nationality were reported in the region, as illustrated in the map with both displaced and non-displaced stateless populations. Bangladesh hosts the highest number of displaced stateless persons with 866,000 by end of 2020, mainly Rohingyas forcibly displaced from Myanmar. An estimated 600,000 Rohingya continue to remain in Rakhine State, Myanmar, of whom 144,000 are internally displaced. Other countries in the region with displaced and/or non-displaced stateless populations include Thailand with 481,000 stateless persons, Malaysia with 111,000 stateless persons (mostly Rohingya refugees), Uzbekistan with 70,000 stateless persons, Cambodia with 57,000 stateless persons, and Viet Nam with 33,000 stateless persons.