The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Where the world’s refugees live

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There’s a critical factor that affects America’s role in the global refugee crisis that often goes unmentioned: the Atlantic Ocean.

Data compiled by the United Nations’ refugee agency allows us to map the distribution of refugees by country. As you might expect, many are centered in the countries that adjoin areas of conflict.

While the United States is home to more refugees than other countries in the Western Hemisphere, the number of refugees who have settled in the United States trails 16 countries. Those include Germany and Russia — large countries that are much more accessible from recent areas of conflict, like Syria.

It’s worth comparing those refugee populations with the populations of the countries themselves. The two largest countries are China and India, as you may remember from high school. The United States is the third-largest country in the world, according to estimates from the CIA World Factbook.

Our relatively small population of refugees and our relatively large overall population means that the United States has one of the lower refugee populations as a percentage of our overall population.

There are 69 other countries that have a larger ratio of refugees to their populations.

Which countries? Mostly ones that are able to be reached by land from regions of conflict.

As Canada and Australia make clear, though, that’s not always the case.