History's Biggest Refugee Crisis Situations

Mohamed Malim

Refugees Across the Globe 

Whether it happens due to political, societal, or any kind of natural disaster, humanitarian crises are an unfortunate reality in this world. Many times, these events force nearby residents of the affected country to flee their homes to a neighboring city or country in order to live in peace and safety - away from the dangers of their homeland. No matter where this situation happens, it’s always a challenge for refugees to uproot their lives and begin living their “normal lives” in a brand new country.

Every day, more and more refugees are fleeing their homes due to any number of challenges they’re experiencing. The decision to stay home or flee with their families to another country is sometimes a matter of life and death. Currently, there are over 79.5 million displaced individuals scattered throughout the globe right now and about 26 million of those being refugees. These individuals have families, are searching for basic necessities, trying to get jobs and living in a foreign land - the challenges they are experiencing are seemingly endless. 

Unfortunately, this type of situation is nothing new in human history. For centuries, there have been horrible situations which have made refugees flee to nearby countries and cities in order to flee from oppression, have food to eat or to simply avoid wars that are going on. In the following paragraphs, we’ll describe a few of the most notable refugee crises that have happened in history along with what is currently happening.

Biggest Refugee Crises In History

World War II Refugee Crisis (1933-1945)

While the world knows of the atrocities that happened during World War II, it’s important to note the extent of how it affected local citizens. With all of the fighting and persecution happening, this led to an estimated 60 million European citizens becoming refugees. This situation is also the main reason that led to the United States distinguishing the terms “immigration” and “refugee”.

During World War II, Nazi Germany attacked and occupied a number of the surrounding European countries, which caused millions of Europeans, especially those in the Jewish community, to become refugees by uprooting their lives, leaving their homes, and fleeing to neighboring countries in order to stay safe.  

biggest refugee crisis in history

Syrian Civil War & Refugee Crisis (2011-Current)

Gripping the news headlines since its introduction nearly a decade ago, the Syrian Civil War has unfortunately continued to be one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. After many years of civil war, political conflict and the resulting hard times within the country, there have been more than 11 million Syrian people who have been displaced; 6.2 million of those being displaced within Syria while over 5.5 million individuals becoming refugees in neighboring countries. These people have fled into countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan.

What has evoked the Syrians to protest and what has continued to shape the situation is the anger of Syrian citizens against their government. They have long suffered from poverty, high unemployment as well as continuing political injustice. They have been inspired by the Arab Spring and protested against the political corruption, which has increased the chances of danger and harm.


South Sudan Civil War & Crisis (2013-2020)

According to global statistics, South Sudan has been designated as having the largest refugee crisis in Africa. The situation there is horrific due to the civil war happening between the government forces and the opposition which was ongoing since 2013. While more than four million people have been displaced from their land since the beginning of the conflict, over two million of those people have become refugees in neighboring countries.

While civil war brought its own hardships and dangers to the local communities, the humanitarian situation has continued and even further declined in some areas due to prolonged flooding and drought. This situation has caused people to suffer due to a lack of clean water, health care, sanitation, food, proper living areas and protection. This has forced people to leave their land in order to survive and find opportunities to earn a living.


Somalia Civil War Refugee Situation (1991-Current)

The situation in Somalia is dire; almost three decades of political conflict and natural catastrophes has led to an incredible number of Somali refugees seeking a better life. With roughly 2.5 million citizens losing their lives, two million people who are internally displaced and another almost one million people living as refugees in neighboring countries, their life is unbearable and they are in need of assistance and supplies to survive. The only way they have found is to flee their land and seek survival. 


Rwandan Genocide Refugees (1994)

Many repeated instances of human violence and displacement have been witnessed in Rwanda. Whether it was ethnic tensions or the armed conflict, the Rwandan genocide was an incredible horrible situation that took place in an already struggling central Africa country. 

Beginning in 1993, the tensions in Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi were already very high and only increased following the assassination of the President of Burundi. This event caused killings of Tutsi in Burundi, and then mass killings of Hutu. After these vicious instances, the Rwandan genocide left over than 800,000 tutsis dead and over two million refugees crossing the neighboring countries.

How Can You Help? 

While going over this history of many different refugee crises may seem like there is no end in site, there is hope. With more means than ever to assist those in need from your own location, you can make a difference in many refugees' lives today. With your support, organizations can respond to these crises and support refugees around the world with emergency assistance in order to meet their needs.

Here at Epimonia, simply with the purchase of some of our bracelets, apparel, or accessories, you can support refugees who are trying to attain their goals and allow them to live a normal life. Learn more about Epimonia and our mission today!

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