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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 were forced to flee their homes last year. There are more than 13 million refugees worldwide - but developing countries host over 80% of people.

There are an estimated 126,000 refugees living in the UK. That's just 0.19% of the total population (64.1 million people). 

How many asylum seekers came to the UK in 2014?

The UK received 31,400 asylum applications.

This was less than Germany (166,800), France (63,100), Italy (56,300) and Sweden (81,300).

Just 41& of people applying for an initial decision were granted asylum and allowed to stay.

Many 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 (52%) came from just five countries in 2014.Volunteer helps a refugee services client find their way around town© Info

Numbers of people per country:

  • Syria: 3 million
  • Afghanistan: 2.7 million
  • Somalia: 1.1 million
  • Sudan: 670,000
  • South Sudan: 508,000 

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 , whichever way they can
  • 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
  • can now stay here either long-term or indefinitely.

Refused asylum seeker

  • has been unable to prove that they would face persecution back home
  • has been denied protection by the authorities
  • must now leave the country, unless they wish to appeal the decision or there are legitimate reasons why they cannot yet return home.

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 2014; UNHCR mid-year report 2014; Office for National Statistics (mid 2013).


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