Some facts and figures

We are grateful to The Refugee Council for the majority of our facts and figures. Find out more directly from their website

Frequently asked questions

Why does the UK take so many refugees? Don't we have our own problems?

Many people think that the majority of refugees, globally, are trying to claim asylum in the UK and that the UK Government is doing more than its fair share.

This is a myth propagated by the media. For example…

  • Since the the Syrian crisis began, the total population increase in the UK was 0.009% (or roughly 30,000 refugees). Lebanon's population has increased by 25% (or roughly 1,067,000 refugees).

  • By contrast, the UK is home to just 1% of the 29.6 million refugees forcibly displaced.

Developing countries – not the UK – look after most of the world's refugees.
  • 85% of refugees live in countries neighbouring their country of origin, frequently in developing countries.
Turkey hosts more refugees than any other. At the end of 2019, Turkey was providing safety to 3.6 million Syrian refugees. By the end of June 2020, the UK had resettled just 20,007 Syrian refugees under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). The UK asylum system is strictly controlled and complex It is very difficult for people seeking asylum to provide the evidence required to be granted protection. The decision-making process is extremely tough and many people’s claims are rejected. In the year ending June 2020, 53% of initial decisions resulted in a grant of asylum or other form of protection. Initial Home Office decision-making remains poor. Many refugees had to rely on the courts rather than the Government for the protection they need. The proportion of asylum appeals allowed in the year ending June 2020 was 45%, the highest it has been in the last decade. Since 2005, most people recognised as refugees are only given permission to stay in the UK for five years. This makes it difficult for them to make decisions about their future, to find work and make plans for their life in the UK.

Asylum seekers, refugees, economic migrants – who's who

The definition of a refugee according to the 1951 UN Convention is:
A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

In the UK, a person becomes a refugee when Government agrees that an individual who has applied for asylum meets the definition in the Refugee Convention. It wil thenl ‘recognise’ that person as a refugee and issue them with refugee status documentation. Refugees in the UK are given five years’ leave to remain as a refugee. They must then apply for further leave, although their status as a refugee is not limited to five years.

ASYLUM SEEKER (person seeking asylum)
A person who has left their country of origin and formally applied for asylum in another, but whose application has not yet been concluded. There is no such thing as an ‘illegal’ or ‘bogus’ asylum seeker. Under international law, anyone has the right to apply for asylum in any country that has signed the 1951 Convention and to remain there while the authorities assess their claim The 1951 Convention recognises that people fleeing persecution may have to use irregular means in order to escape and claim asylum in another country – there is no legal way to travel to the UK for the specific purpose of seeking asylum. The 1951 Refugee Convention guarantees everybody the right to apply for asylum. It has saved millions of lives. No country has ever withdrawn from it.
A person whose asylum application has been unsuccessful and who has no other claim for protection, awaiting a decision. Some refused asylum seekers voluntarily return home, others are deported. For many, it is not safe to return until conditions in their country change.
Someone who has moved to another country for other reasons, such as to find work.

Why don't they just stay where they land?

There is nothing in international law to say that refugees must claim asylum in the first country they reach.

A European regulation allows a country such as the UK to return an adult asylum seeker to the first European country they reached. This means that countries on the edge of Europe have responsibility for a lot more asylum seekers than others. Some of the countries through which people travel to get to Europe are unsafe for some people. Many have not signed the Refugee Convention, meaning that people who remain there will not get international protection and not be able to rebuild their lives.

Like most of us, refugees want to live where they think they are most likely to get support, accommodation and jobs. Many factors drive where they decide they want to live…

  • Countries where they have family or friends.
  • Language skills; for example they may speak English or French and so are more likely to get work in the UK or France.
  • Where they think they will be welcome and helped financially – because of the numbers of refugees, countries where they first land are often hostile and unable to keep them safe. They therefore move on hoping to escape destitution.

This video explains in more detail…

All the refugees are single men; why do they leave their families?


Firstly, single young men are often targeted by groups like ISIS, the Taliban and others as potential recruits – and so these men have to flee in order to avoid being enlisted or killed.

Secondly, families may often only be able to send one family member to try and secure safety. So they, of course, will send their fittest/most able family member to seek asylum.

Thirdly, many of the young women who flee sadly get stuck, or are more likely to be taken into the slave trade. More women are killed on the way, which is why greater numbers of men eventually get through to Europe.


In the year ending September 2020, the UK received 2,795 applications for asylum from unaccompanied children. The majority are aged between 14 and 17 and come from Eritrea, Sudan, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Albania, Ethiopia and Syria.

Children are also regularly trafficked into the UK to be forced into domestic servitude, sexual exploitation and other forms of forced labour, including cannabis cultivation.

If these men are genuine refugees, why are they not in official camps?

These young men understand that, in the official camps, countries are selecting women, children and families for their humanitarian quota intakes.

Knowing they have little chance of success, they will, therefore, resort to their next best option. If they speak English already or have family in the UK, it is logical that they would try to make it here. [This extract and more information from Care4Calais – Refugee Crisis]

Refugees only come here for our generous benefits, don't they?

Asylum seekers and refugees do not get large handouts from the state Most people seeking asylum live on Home Office support of just over £5 per head per day. Asylum seekers do not come to the UK to claim benefits. Most know nothing about welfare benefits in the UK before they arrive, and had no expectation of financial support. Most asylum seekers are living in poverty and experience poor health and hunger. Many families are not able to pay for the basics such as clothing, powdered milk and nappies. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are forced to rely on state support, leaving them struggling to support themselves and their families, while the Government wastes the talents of thousands of people. Asylum seeking women who are destitute are vulnerable to violence in the UK. More than a fifth of the women accessing our therapeutic services had experienced sexual violence in this country.