• In the UK, asylum applications (excluding dependents) peaked at 84,100 in 2002 and reached a low point of 17,900 in 2010. After several years of increases, applications dropped by 6% to 30,700 in 2016.
  • Asylum applicants and their dependents comprised an estimated 9% of net migration in 2015, down from 44% in 2002.
  • In 2016, 68% of initial asylum applications were refused but 42% of appeals against initial refusals were successful.
  • Men made up 75% of main applicants for asylum in 2016.
  • The UK received about 3% of asylum claims made in EU countries (plus Norway and Switzerland) in 2016, and was the sixth highest recipient of asylum claims.[1]
  • According to the UNHCR, by mid-2015 there were 117,234 refugees, 37,829 pending asylum cases and 16 stateless persons in the UK. That’s less than one quarter of a percent of the UK’s total population (around 0.24%)
  • Asylum applications to the UK are relatively low – 32,733 in 2015. Although they have increased a little in recent years, they’re still significantly lower today than the peak of 84,000 applications back in 2002.
  • The vast majority of people who seek asylum in the UK have fled countries ravaged by war and human rights abuses. In 2015, the largest number of asylum applications to the UK came from nationals of Eritrea (3,695), Iran (3,242), Sudan (2,912) and Syria (2,539).
  • Over 65 million people around the globe have had to flee their homes – that’s like the entire British population having to leave.
  • It’s poor countries, not rich, western countries, who look after the vast majority of the world’s refugees. The UN’s Refugee Agency estimates that nearly nine in ten of the world’s refugees are sheltered by developing countries.
  • Last year, 172, 362 people arrived in Europe via sea. Just under half were women and children. 3,119 men, women and children have lost their lives during their attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
  • In September 2015, European countries agreed to relocate 160,000 refugees away from Greece and Italy to help ease the pressure. By September 2017, almost 27,700 refugees had been relocated.
  • In 2017, an estimated 668,600 people sought safety in Europe. Britain received 26,350 asylum applications, a 14% decrease since the year before. Britain received less than 3% of all asylum claims made in the EU during last year.
  • By the end of 2017 more than 14,600 asylum applications had been waiting for longer than six months for an initial decision on the case. That’s an increase from 8,820 compared with the previous year. In Germany alone, 199,200 asylum applications were made.
  • The total backlog in cases pending a decision totalled 28,787.
  • In 2017, 27,331 people were imprisoned in immigration detention centres; among them many people seeking asylum. 54% were released back into the community.
  • The number of Syrian refugees resettled in the UK now stands at 10,538 since the conflict began.
  • In 2017, 813 non-Syrian refugees were resettled in Britain via the Gateway Protection Programme run in conjunction with the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Just 1% of the world’s refugees will ever be resettled.[2]

[1]Migration to the UK: Asylum – The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford
[2]Refugee Council – Top 20 facts about refugees and asylum seekers.


Refugee Action has spent 35 years helping refugees build safe, hopeful and productive new lives in the UK.

In Place of War has worked with creative communities in some of the most challenging contexts in the world. It is a support system for community artistic, creative and cultural organisations in places of conflict, revolution and areas suffering the consequences of conflict.

Regional Refugee Forum North East is the independent membership organisation created by and for the North East region’s Refugee-led Community Organisations (RCOs), enabling them to unite and produce their Collective Voice and empowering them to be active agents in change.

Women for Refugee Women challenges the injustices experienced by women who seek asylum in the UK.

The Refugee Council is one of the leading charities in the UK working directly with refugees, and supporting them to rebuild their lives.

University of East London – Directory of Services & Organisations for Refugees, Asylum Seekers & Migrants

Welcome Cinema: Welcoming Refugees to the UK

A Guide to Welcoming Immigrants and Refugees