Some basic facts and figures – updated July 2023

Some basic facts and figures


What’s the difference between a refugee, an asylum seeker and a migrant?

Refugees are people fleeing conflict or persecution. [1] Article 1 of the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention defines a refugee as 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 to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…’. [2]

An asylum seeker is someone who has lodged an application for protection on the basis of the UN Refugee Convention or Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[3]

An asylum seeker has the right to stay in the country while his or her application is dealt with. If the application is accepted, i.e. the authorities believe that the person would be at risk if returned to their home country, he or she is given refugee status. Refugees are allowed to stay long-term or indefinitely. Those whose asylum applications are refused must leave the country, unless they wish to appeal the decision or there are legitimate reasons why they cannot yet return home.[4]

A migrant is simply any person who has moved to another country. Migrants have different reasons for migrating, including persecution, conflict and seeking work. They may or may not have a legal right to reside in the new country.


How many refugees are there worldwide? [5]

  • There are now 108 million people worldwide who are forcibly displaced. Most of these stay within the borders of their country of origin and are known as “internally displaced people”.
  • The current worldwide total number of “refugees”, who have fled into another country, is 35 million.
  • The majority of refugees do not go further than their neighbouring country. 70% of the world’s refugees live in countries neighbouring their countries of origin and 73% are hosted in developing countries. The 5 countries which are hosting the most refugees are: Türkiye (3.6 million), Iran (3.4 million), Colombia (2.5 million), Germany (2.1 million) and Pakistan (1.7 million).
  • The three countries from which most refugees currently come (52% of the worldwide total) are: Syria, Ukraine and Afghanistan.


How many refugees are there in the UK?

The latest government statistics[6], for the year ending March 2023, record that in that year 170,000 Ukrainian refugees came to the UK (under Ukraine Visa Schemes) and 23,000 other people were granted protection (refugee status, resettlement or other forms of humanitarian protection). There were 75,000 asylum applications in that year, but the total number of asylum seekers currently in the UK (who are awaiting a decision) is over 100,000[7] due to the Home Office backlog in processing claims.




[4] See also: , “Refugees, Asylum Seekers & Migrants – Welcoming the Stranger” by Churches Together in the Merseyside Region: , and

[5] All figures from:


For further statistical information see also: ,