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 16.7 million refugees in the world (UNHCR, 2014)

  • This figure does not include the estimated 33.3 million ‘internally displaced people’, those who have left their home but have not crossed an international border.
  • 49% of refugees are women, whilst 50% are under the age of 18.

At the end of 2013, the population of refugees, pending asylum cases and stateless persons made up just 0.23% of the population of the UK

  • 86% of refugees are hosted by developing countries.
  • Refugees only account for a tiny percentage of overall immigration.
  • In 2013, the UK received 23,507 asylum applications.
  • The number of applications for asylum, including dependants, was 29,200 in 2013

Major refugee-hosting countries graph

In 2013, most refugees were living in Pakistan, Iran and Lebanon (UNHCR, 2014)

  • Countries like Jordan, Turkey, Kenya, Chad, Ethiopia, China 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.

In 2013, Pakistan, Iran and Sri Lanka were the top three countries that people seeking asylum in the UK came from (UNHCR, 2014)

  • Many other asylum applications in recent years have been from people from Syria, Bangladesh, India, Albania, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Eritrea.
  • Most of these countries have either recently experienced conflict or have well-documented human rights abuses.

The refugee crisis in Syria is “the great tragedy of this century”, says UNHCR

  • More than 3 million people have now fled Syria. By August 2014, the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon had reached 1.1 million.
  • In 2013 only 1,669 Syrians applied for asylum in the UK.
  • The UNHCR have called the situation “a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history”.

In the UK 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 £72.40, plus other benefits they may be eligible for.
  • Asylum seekers do not qualify for council housing tenancy or housing benefit.
  • Asylum seekers do not have permission to work in the UK.

Asylum seekers are often kept in detention, even though claiming asylum is not a crime.

  • There are 12 immigration removal centres across the UK.
  • 14,145 asylum seekers were detained in 2013, or which 141 were children.

Further Information

All of the information on this page is taken from the UNHCR and the UK Government. For more statistics on refugees check out the links below:

UNHCR Facts and Figures About Refugees
UNHCR Global Trends Report 2013
UNHCR Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialised Countries Report 2013
UNHCR Hosting the World’s Refugees Report 2013
UNHCR Facts and Figures About The Syrian Refugee Crisis
UKBA Immigration Statistics