Counting the Displaced

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Updated on September 10 at 2:51 p.m.

The White House says the U.S. will take at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year, which begins October 1. That’s after The New York Times reported this morning that the U.S. may take as many as 100,000 refugees worldwide next year, up from the current limit of 70,000.

That figure, reportedly revealed by Secretary of State John Kerry to lawmakers at a meeting Wednesday, comes amid a heated debate in Europe on how to distribute 160,000 asylum-seekers among the EU’s member states.

The numbers are undoubtedly large, but they pale in comparison to the scale of the problem—and what other, sometimes much poorer, countries are doing in response.

Worldwide, the U.N. says, nearly 60 million people have been forcibly displaced.

Of that number, 38.2 million are internally displaced, 19.5 million are refugees, and 1.8 million are asylum-seekers—people who says they refugees, but whose claims haven’t been validated.

The top six countries to host refugees are Turkey (1.59 million), Pakistan (1.51 million), Lebanon (1.15 million), Iran (982,000), Ethiopia (659,500), and Jordan (654,100).

In comparison, the U.S. accepts 70,000 refugees a year. The policies of individual EU states vary, but the bloc is struggling to forge a coherent position on the crisis, which has been exacerbated by the Syrian civil war.