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20 October 2014
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    Asylum seekers
    The Basics | More Information | Web Links
    Definitions and explanations

    What is a refugee?
    A refugee is someone who has been forced to leave their country. They may have been persecuted or have a 'well-founded fear of being persecuted' because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

    What is an asylum seeker?
    An asylum seeker is a person who has applied for legal recognition as a refugee in another country and is waiting for a decision on their application.

    What does asylum mean?
    Asylum means a secure place of refuge, shelter, or retreat.

    Who cannot get asylum in Britain?
    People who have been involved in war crimes, crimes against peace, serious non-political crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Everyone has the right to seek asylum.

    This is a important human right stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


    • Asylum figures for 2002 published by the Home Office showed that Britain received 110,700 new asylum applicants last year, up 20% on the previous year. In 1980, 2,352 people applied for asylum in the UK.

    • 10% of applicants in the UK were granted asylum in 2002.

    • In 2002 the top five nationalities applying for asylum in the were Iraq (14,940), Zimbabwe (7,695), Afghanistan (7,380), Somalia (6,680) and China (3,735).

    • The country that receives the most number of refugees in the world is Pakistan. Pakistan (2,199,379), Iran (1,868,011) and Afghanistan (1,226,098) hosted the most refugees in 2001.

    • In 2002, the United Kingdom received the largest number of asylum applications of any European Union country (88,300), closely followed by Germany (88,290). France was the next highest with 47,290.

    • The total world population of refugees and people at risk in their own countries in 2002 was about 20 million.

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