Basic Facts & Figures

The welcoming and protection of refugees is not a numbers game. Every refugee’s personal experience is unique.

Nevertheless, because there are a lot of wrong numbers out there it’s good to know some of the right ones.

There are around 15.4 million refugees in the world

  • This figure does not include the estimated 28.8 million ‘internally displaced people’, those who have left their home but have not crossed an international border (UNHCR, Global Trends 2012 ).
  • 48% of refugees are women, whilst 46% are under the age of 18.

There were an estimated 193,510 refugees in the UK at the start of 2012 – that’s just 0.33% of the population.

(“UNHCR” :

  • 80% of refugees are hosted by developing countries (see graphic below)
  • Refugees only account for a tiny percentage of overall immigration.
  • In 2011, the number of asylum applicants was 19,894, around 3% of total net immigration to the UK. In 2012, there were 21,785 asylum applications in the UK.
  • The number of applications for asylum, including dependants, was 27,410 in 2012 (UNHCR, Aslyum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries 2012)


Most refugees were living in Pakistan, Iran and Germany in 2012

  • Countries including Kenya, Syria, Jordan, Chad, China, Ethiopia and the USA also host high refugee populations
  • Most refugees flee to their neighbouring country, only a small proportion travel to developed countries in Europe and elsewhere (UNHCR, Global Trends 2012).

Most asylum seekers in the UK came from Pakistan, Iran and Sri Lanka in 2012

  • Many other asylum applications in recent years have been from people from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, China, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
  • These countries have either recently experienced conflict or have well-documented human rights abuses (UNHCR, 2009).

A single adult asylum seeker receives £36.62 a week – that’s just £5.23 per day

  • Asylum seekers cannot claim mainstream benefits.
  • A single unemployed UK citizen of the same age would receive £67.50, plus other benefits they may be able to receive.
  • Asylum seekers do not qualify for council housing tenancy or housing benefit.
  • Asylum seekers do not have permission to work in the UK.
    (Home Office, Asylum Support)

Asylum seekers are often kept in detention, despite the fact that claiming asylum is not a crime.

  • There are 11 immigration removal centres across the UK (Immigration Removal Centres).
  • At the end of 2012, there were 2,685 people in detention, a figure 11% higher than the number recorded at the end of 2011. (Home Office).
  • 99 children entered detention in 2011, of which 64 were asylum detainees (Refugee Council).
  • Child detention increased from 2011 levels in 2012, primarily due to the increased use of Cedars pre-departure accommodation facility. Between October and December 2012, 61 children entered detention, although it is not clear if all of those were asylum detainees.