Your Questions Answered

Unheard Voices has teamed up with a number of leading asylum and migration organisations to find the answers to frequently asked questions about asylum, refugees and the immigration system in the UK and the world.

The answers below come from a range of sources, research data and organisations working to understand asylum and encourage informed debate and policy decisions.
Some of the research data is from organisations explicitly supporting asylum seekers and other research data is from Home Office statistics and independent research organisations without an explicit agenda other than to understand immigration and asylum better.

Answers are credited to the varying organisations and researchers throughout this article, with links for further information.

Why do asylum seekers come to the UK to seek asylum?

People who are forced to seek asylum are from trouble spots all over the world. At the end of 2006, the largest populations of refugees worldwide were from Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi. Despite the large numbers of Afghans returning home, Afghans are still by far the largest refugee group in the world, making up one fifth of the global refugee population.

Historically, the main countries of origin of people seeking asylum in the UK have varied according to situations of conflict and displacement across the globe, and the links the UK has with particular countries.

During the Second World War and its aftermath, the majority of refugees coming to the UK were from Europe. In recent years, the main nationalities of asylum applicants have reflected contemporary conflicts, with the majority of asylum seekers since 2000 coming from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iran and China – all countries where wars, ethnic cleansing and well-documented human rights abuses have taken place.

In 2007, the top five countries of origin for asylum applicants to the UK were Afghanistan, Iran, China, Iraq and Eritrea.

In 2011 there was a significant increase in the number of applicants from Libya (721 in the year compared with 90 in 2010). From countries not in the top ten in 2011, applications from Syria increased significantly (353 in 2011 compared with 127 in 2010) and also from Albania (391 in 2011 compared with 174 in 2010)


Refugee Council analysis of Home Office Statistics May 2012

This information has been gathered from Refugee Action Info sheets and Refugee Council reports.


How many asylum seekers and refugees are there in the world?

Refugees in numbers according to a 2011 UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) Global Trends 2011 report:


In 2011, an estimated 4.3 million people were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution. More than 800,000 people were displaced as refugees across international borders, the highest number in more than a decade. Another 3.5 million people were newly displaced within the borders of their countries, a 20 per cent increase from 2010.


Developing countries hosted four-fifths of the world’s refugees. The 48 least developed countries provided asylum to 2.3 million refugees.


Pakistan was host to the largest number of refugees worldwide (1.7 million), followed by the Islamic Republic of Iran (887,000) and the Syrian Arab Republic (755,400; Government’s estimate).


Pakistan hosted the largest number of refugees in relation to its economic capacity with 605 refugees per 1 USD GDP (PPP) per capita. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (399) and Kenya (321) ranked second and third respectively

Where do asylum seekers in the UK come from? 

Including dependants, 25,455 asylum applications were made to the UK in 2011. There were 1,277 applications from unaccompanied minors and 186 were recognised as refugees.

The top ten countries of origin are as follows: Pakistan (3,945); Iran (3,045); Sri Lanka (2,125); Afghanistan (1,525); Libya (1,185); Nigeria (1,055); China (920); Eritrea (835); Sudan (790) and Zimbabwe (735)

Does the UK have more asylum seekers than most countries?

About 80 per cent of the world’s asylum seekers live in countries neighbouring the ones they have fled. About 2 per cent of the world’s refugee population live in the UK.

The number of people seeking asylum in the UK peaked in the early 2000s with 84,130 applications (excluding dependants) in 2003. It has remained much lower since this point. In 2010, 17,990 people applied for asylum in the UK.

The United Kingdom was the seventh largest recipient of new asylum-seekers in 2011 with 25,400 claims. This represents a 12 per cent increase on 2010 however is still the second lowest level in two decades.

With 235,400 registered asylum claims in 2011, the United States of America, France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden were the top five receiving countries, together accounting for more than half (53%) of all new asylum claims made in the developed world.

Information from The UN Refugee Agency and Asylum Statistics, Institute of Race Relations


Find out how the UK asylum process works here and what criteria the UK Border Agency uses to determine whether an asylum seeker is in need of protection here


About The Author

Multimedia Web & Video Journalist

I am a Multimedia Web and Video Journalist, enthusiastic mountain biker and lover of nature. I am passionate about communication and its power to improve a person's life. My dream is to expose injustice and give a voice to those who are largely ignored. I am the senior video journalist and director at multimedia production company Humbledinger, which I run with my husband, filmmaker Joe Bream. Joe and I spend our 'free' time making short documentaries and films that will give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.

Number of Entries : 39

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