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Although the 2015 surge in Mediterranean arrivals to Europe seemed to trigger new interest in refugee movements, the field of refugee studies is in fact over fifty years old. Still, notwithstanding the dramatic increase in academic work on refugees over the past few decades and despite its obvious potential value, there remains no comprehensive listing of refugee crises. Moreover, the fact that some crises receive more scholarly, policy, and media attention than others can lead to inaccurate inferences. At the time of writing, many people have focused on the ongoing Syrian and Rohingya refugee crises, but far less attention has been paid to events in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Burundi.
This paper conceptualizes and measures refugee crises worldwide during 1951-2015. It introduces an original dataset that fills a gap in the data available to scholars of international relations and refugee studies. This dataset will enable scholars to add multiple insights to the literature on the politics of migration and asylum. And it promises to advance our understanding of important policy-relevant questions related to the causes and consequences of refugee crises.