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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?

How many of the world’s displaced come to the UK?

People seeking asylum worldwide in 2009: 923,400
Asylum applications in the UK in 2009: 24,485 

How much of total immigration do asylum seekers account for in the UK?

Total long-term immigration to the UK in 2010: 572,000            
Asylum applications in the UK in 2010: 17,790

How many asylum seekers are allowed to stay in the UK?

Total asylum applications to the UK in 2010: 17,790
Total granted refugee status in 2010: 3,480


Which countries do asylum seekers come from?

Volunteer helps a refugee services client find their way around town© InfoFar fewer people come to the UK to apply for asylum than you might think. Out of almost 40 million displaced people throughout the world who are of concern to UNHCR, a tiny percentage come to the UK. Of these, the top nationalities include:


Number arrived in the UK in 2010: 1,605


Number arrived in the UK in 2010: 575


Number arrived in the UK in 2010: 1,865


Number arrived in the UK in 2010: 590


Number arrived in the UK 2010: 1,410

All ‘number arrived’ figures: Home Office

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) so here’s a handy guide to help you understand 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

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