On May 6, Kenya announced that it will close of all its refugee camps by the end of May, which will leave about half a million refugees stranded. They’re mostly people fleeing the civil war that’s ravished Somalia since 1991.
Dadaab, in the east near Somalia, is currently the world’s largest refugee camp, followed by Dollo Ado, in Ethiopia, and Ain Al-Hilweh, in Lebanon, according to the latest data (updated to March or April 2016) from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA).
Despite the recent attention to refugees in Europe, Western countries play a relatively small part in refugee asylum. The largest refugee camps in the world are, as they have been for decades, in Africa and the Middle East, and the first exception, in terms of size, is Mae La, in Thailand (hosting nearly 50,000 refugees from Burma), and then Suruç, in Turkey. By comparison, the camps of Idomeni, in Greece, arguably Europe’s largest, hosts 13,000 people, and Calais, in France, known as “The Jungle,” houses 4,500.
Having the largest camps doesn’t necessarily mean having the largest refugee population: sometimes countries don’t have specific areas set up for refugees and don’t offer them support or, in the case of more developed countries, might assist them outside camps.
Jordan, for instance, has camps as well as people housed in urban areas, and according to the latest data available from the World Bank (2014), hosts a population of 2.8 million refugees, over a third of the country’s population. Jordan is followed by the West Bank and Gaza territories, where over 2 million refugees live, then Lebanon (1.6 million), Turkey (1.6 million), Pakistan (1.5 million). By comparison the US, the western country with the largest number of refugee in 2014, hosted about 250,000.