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People Are Leaving Their Countries in Droves. Who Are They And Where Are They Going?

38 million people. Let that sink in.

That's 38 million people who are displaced across the globe in 2014. Including this family:

refugees migrants

This Rohinga family is seeking a better life safe from persecution. (EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection / Flickr)

That means they have nowhere to go--either inside of their own countries, or elsewhere in the world.

When something is happening to millions of people, clearly it's important. So let's look at the regions dealing with migrant crises and why.

Southeast Asia

Over 1,000 people landed on the shores of Thailand and Malaysia, fleeing other countries, but now they're turning them back into the sea. Yes, back into the sea.

Some say they'll only take them in as refugees if they're sinking. So, let's look at this.

What countries are people fleeing to?

Bangladesh and Myanmar.


In Bangladesh, the big problem is intense poverty. Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries in the world, where people are struggling to find jobs. It has improved in recent years, but not enough for people to be happy and healthy.

And there is ethnic persecution in Myanmar. (Persecution is treatment or oppression against a certain population over race, politics or religion.)

The Rohingya community--an ethnic Muslim minority--has long been deemed stateless by Myanmar. They've been denied citizenship, access to education, and freedom to move for decades by the government, which is mostly Buddhist.

How many people are we talking about here?

Somewhere between 6,000 and 25,000 people. No one knows exactly how many boats there are out in the sea. That's scary.

Where are they going?

Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

What problems is it causing?

Thailand has taken in some migrants, but their detention shelters are struggling. They are considering setting up camps on two of their abandoned islands.

Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia are all saying they will not accept illegal migrants into their country, further abandoning thousands in the sea.

So, for now, they're just going from country to country with nowhere to land.

What next?

There is a regional meeting planned later this month in Thailand to discuss the issue. So, not a whole lot is going on to tackle this problem.

The Middle East

The war in Syria has gone on for four years ... Iraq has dealt with more than a decade of war ... ISIS continues to hold or take territory ... and violence rages on in Yemen.

These are all things real people are dealing with each day, and many people in these countries are looking for safety elsewhere.

What countries are people fleeing?

Iraq, Syria and Yemen.


A wide range of things: War, conflict, violence, persecution, poverty, and more.

Syria's war, starting from a 2011 revolution against President Assad, has gone on for four years now. And its spilled into Iraq, further making the violence-ridden country further unstable.

And the Islamic State, a k a ISIS, along with al-Qaeda groups, has taken advantage of the conflict in Iraq and Syria and Yemen.

Yemen, where al-Qaeda has a strong presence, has always dealt with violence, poverty, hunger and more.

But now rebels have made it even more unstable. And Saudi Arabia launched an offensive against the rebels, throwing civilians into the situation. People have fled Yemen by boat and landed in nearby Africa.

How many people?

Millions. The United Nations says there are 19.5 million displaced people in the Middle East today.

That's an estimated 5 million Palestinians dispersed, 5 million Syrians out of their country, 3 million leaving Iraq, and countless others displaced internally in their countries. Meaning they just have nowhere to go.

Where are they off to?

Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Africa, or Europe, via the dangerous Mediterranean Sea.

What problems is it causing?

One out of four people in Lebanon is a refugee. That's a mind-blowing 25% of the country. Lebanon is struggling to deal with their own residents plus the 1 million refugees in their tiny, tiny country.

There are also millions of kids out of school, creating a whole generation of children without education.

Also: There is not enough money or resources. The UN appealed to the world for support, but fell short by $4.6 billion. Yes, that's over 4 billion dollars they said they need to help Syrians in desperate need that they didn't get.

And people are dying. Hundreds of thousands are fleeing by boat in the Mediterranean and it is a deadly trip. Thousands have died trying to escape by boat to a better life.

What next?

Well, more of the same: Building and maintaining refugee camps across the region. Asking for more $$$ support. And hoping it's a temporary situation.

Meanwhile, the United States is upping their intake of refugees from Syria to 2,000 people.


Africa continues to deal with sparse migration and refugee crises that span the entire continent.

What countries are people leaving?

Burundi, Libya, South Africa, Sudan and others.


Many, many reasons.

Burundi, a poor country with half of its population in poverty, is dealing with violent protest against their president, who is running for a third term. The constitution says presidents can serve only for two terms, so many people there are really unhappy. There was an attempted coup--it failed--and thousands continue to flee the tiny Central African country.

Then there's Libya, which has dealt with years of violent unrest and now has two competing governments--so there is no stable society in Libya today. And Libya is the launching point of many Mediterranean Sea trips to Europe.

Way down south, violent xenophobia is rising in South Africa. (Xenophobia is an irrational, intense dislike of immigrants or foreigners). This is forcing many to leave their homes.

Then, in Sudan and South Sudan, violence continues to rage on in the unstable border regions through five years of war. There are more than 300,000 people without aid because humanitarian groups have left. People there are starving.

How many people are we talking about here?

Millions. Over 15 million people are displaced across the African continent, the United Nations says.

Where are they going?

Neighboring countries, or northbound to the Mediterranean Sea with hopes for a better life in Europe.

What problems is it causing?

Again, it's deadly. Many are crossing territories through many countries in Africa. Refugee camps can be threatened or attacked by militants. Or migrants may try the dangerous trek across the Mediterranean Sea.

What next?

The European Union is discussing how they can better address the migrant situation in the Mediterranean Sea. There are a range of options they are mulling over, including accepting a specific number of refugees or cracking down on smugglers in Africa.

And the United Nations will continue to try to help migrants and refugees all across Africa.

Images used under Creative Commons licensing.

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People Are Leaving Their Countries in Droves. Who Are They And Where Are They Going?

Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a freelance international news reporter, having contributed to The Atlantic online and Mic. He's worked at CNNMoney, the New York Daily News, and Voice of America. Patrick loves tweeting, reading, and grabbing coffee in either New York or Washington D.C. Tweet anything on politics or world conflict to him! Follow: @patrickdehahn.

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