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Refugee facts and figures

Two men talking© InfoWe’re all familiar with the scare stories about asylum seekers ‘flooding’ the UK. But how do these tales of mass invasion stand up against the statistical data?

Have a look at some asylum facts and figures.

How many people in the UK are asylum seekers?

Far fewer people come to the UK to apply for asylum than you might think.

More than 50 million people throughout the world have been forced to flee their homes. There are more than 13 million refugees worldwide - but developing countries host over 80% of these people.

There are currently 149,799 refugees in the UK. That's just 0.24% of the total population (63.7 million people). 

How many asylum seekers came to the UK in 2013?

The UK received 23,507 asylum applications.

This was less than Germany (109,580), France (60,100) and Sweden (54,260).

How many asylum seekers were allowed to stay?

  • The Home Office made 17,647 initial decisions on asylum applications.
  • Just 37% of people applying for an initial decision were granted asylum.
  • There were 8,512 asylum appeals from main applications - and 25% were allowed.
  • Many asylum seekers are initially refused because it is difficult to provide the evidence needed to meet the strict criteria of a refugee.

Which countries do asylum seekers come from?

More than half of the world's refugees (55%) came from just five countries in 2013.Volunteer helps a refugee services client find their way around town© Info

Numbers of people per country:

  • Afghanistan: 2,552,208
  • Syria: 1,888,491
  • Somalia: 1,130,939
  • Sudan (may include citizens of South Sudan): 619,088
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: 489,887

What do the terms mean? 

A smiling man and woman© InfoIn the eyes of much of the UK public, the terms ‘refugee’, ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘migrant’ have almost blurred into one. This is far from the truth (and far from helpful).

Here's a handy guide to the different terms:

Asylum seeker

  • flees their homeland
  • arrives in another country
  • makes themselves known to the authorities
  • submits an asylum application
  • has a legal right to stay in the country while awaiting a decision.


  • has proven to the authorities that they would be at risk if returned to their home country
  • has had their claim for asylum accepted by the government.

Refused asylum seeker

  • has been unable to prove that they would face persecution back home
  • has been denied protection by the authorities
  • has been told to leave the country.

Economic migrant

  • has moved to another country to work
  • could be legally or illegally resident, depending on how they
    entered the country
  • may or may not have a legal work permit.

Sources: Home Office, Immigration Statistics, Oct to Dec 2013; UNHCR mid-2013 statistics; Office of National Statistics (mid 2012); UNHCR Asylum Trends 2013; new data, for 2014, will be available from June 2015.


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