UNHCR Population Statistics


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refuges (UNHCR) Statistics database contains migration data on “populations of concern” from 1951 to 2018. Refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), returned refugees, returned IDPs, stateless persons and others who receive protection/assistance based on humanitarian grounds are populations of concern.*

*This description is a paraphrased version of the description on the UNHCR Population Statistics main website.

Available data file formats



This is an open data source that is for public use.

UNHCR Population Statistics

how to retrieve data by example


Suppose you are trying to find the number of refugees that came to the United States from South Africa and Sierra Leone in the 1990s (years 1990-1999), and you would like to access and obtain the raw data in a CSV file which can be read into Excel.


Screenshot of the UNHCR Population Statistics main page. There is a world map with a number indicating persons concerned in the top-left corner and a link to the UNHRC Statistics in the center. Above the map, there are buttons which allows you to explore the dataset, in which the second from the left is TIME SERIES.

  • On this next page, look at the far left of the page and notice there are drop-down menus with checkboxes next to specific entries. Click on the checkboxes in order to obtain the desired information. For this scenario, in the drop-down for Years, the years 1990 through 1999 should have their checkboxes checked. Country/territory of asylum/residence should have United States of America checked. Origin should have South Africa and Sierra Leone checked, and Population type should have one box checked that says Refugee (incl. refugee-like situations). The screen should now appear as follows:

Screenshot of the Population Statistics page. On the left, there are four filters with the selections, Years, Country, Origin, and Population type, from top to bottom. On the right, the outcome table displays the data of selection.

  • The desired information is displayed in a table on the screen. To export this information into an Excel file, click on the Export button at the bottom of the page and select CSV under the Current View section.

You now have access to the desired information, number of refugees in the United States from South Africa and Sierra Leone during the 1990s. To obtain the complete collection of data for all populations of concern in each country/territory of asylum/residence from each originating country in all years available (the complete data set), simply select CSV under the section All years when attempting to export the data. The file will be quite large.

For more information on the specifics of these populations of concern, refer back to the bottom of the main page where there is a section that describes each population of concern.

Screenshot of the UNHCR Population Statistics main page. In the lower part of the main page, which is below the map mentioned in the first image above, the right part describes the population types one by one.Be sure to consult with the source website on how to properly cite your data. The UNHCR does not have a specific citation available for this data set. For this scenario, an example of the citation in APA format would be:

UNHCR. (2019). Data – Population Statistics (Time Series). http://popstats.unhcr.org/en/time_series/https://goo.gl/K8wMfQ