10 facts about refugees and asylum seekers

Facts about child refugees

There’s lots of talk in the media about refugees and the refugee crisis, and it’s easy to be confused about the various definitions, motivations and scenarios that force people to become refugees. This is especially true when it comes to child refugees.

Child refugees often find themselves in extremely complex and traumatic situations that are frequently misinterpreted or misunderstood. On top of that, much of what is said or written about refugees is simply untrue, and facts about refugees are often skewed or misreported in order to fuel pre-existing perceptions.

To help improve understanding of refugee facts, and clear up some of the most common misconceptions, we’ve created a list of 10 facts about child refugees:

1. Refugees and asylum seekers are not the same

A refugee is a person who is fleeing armed conflict or persecution in their homeland or country of residence. In order for someone to be considered to be a refugee due to persecution, they must have been persecuted because of their religion, race, nationality, social group or political opinion.

An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for refugee status, but their case hasn’t been evaluated.

In simple terms, every refugee will have initially been an asylum seeker – but not every asylum seeker will be recognised as a refugee.

2. Refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people makes up just 0.24% of the UK population

Given all the negative coverage they receive in the media, you could be forgiven for thinking that refugees and asylum seekers represent a significant proportion of our population – it certainly feels like we hear scare stories about them in the papers a lot more than 0.24% of the time! Yet in actual fact the total number of refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people in the UK is just 168,000 people – they’d all comfortably fit into Wembley and Twickenham stadiums.

3. Almost half of all refugees are children

Refugee children have little to no control of their own destinies. Often they are sent abroad by parents desperate to keep them safe, and arrive in new countries unaccompanied and feeling totally alone. If they’re older children they can often be accused of lying about their age and end up miscategorised as adults – so they’re placed among adults who frequently exploit them.

4. There are 28.5 million refugees worldwide

According to the latest figures there are 25.4 million people in the world who are classified as refugees, and 3.1 are asylum seekers who are waiting for an evaluation of their case. There are also 40 million people who are internally displaced – which means they’re fleeing war or persecution, but haven’t been able to cross the border out of their country.

5. Around half of asylum seekers in the UK will have their application for refugee status rejected

According to the latest figures available, even when they arrive in the UK, 53% of asylum seekers have their applications to be treated as a refugee turned down.

6. The number of people seeking asylum in the UK is lower than 15 years ago

This key refugee fact is often overlooked amid the misleading media coverage of refugees. Applications from refugees today are far lower (around 40,000 per year) than they were in 2002, when over 80,000 people came to the UK seeking asylum.

7. The UK does not accept as many asylum seekers as other countries in Europe

One of the many refugee crisis facts that does not get mentioned enough is that the UK accepts relatively few refugees and asylum seekers each year – especially compared to other countries around the world. In fact, within Europe last year there were seven other countries who had more applications from asylum seekers than the UK – not what you’d think if you listened to some politicians and journalists!

8. Nearly half of the refugees entering Europe are women and children

In 2017 over 360,000 people arrived in Europe via sea. Just under half were women and children. Both women and children are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, both on their journeys away from their homeland and when they arrive in the country they wish to seek asylum in.

9. In this country we put child refugees in detention centres

One of the little known facts about refugees that is the UK is still placing them in detention centres. Between March 2016 and March 2017, 51 children were locked in immigration detention. This was despite the Government promising in 2010 that they would end this practice.

10. Refugees and asylum seekers are people just like you

While it’s easy to put labels on people and think about them as somehow different to us, it’s important to remember the most important fact about refugees: they’re really just like you. They’ve got hopes and dreams, families and friends, favourite foods, music and hobbies – the only difference is they’ve had to abandon them all in order to stay alive. So if you’re ever encouraged to demonise refugees or tempted to judge them, it’s always worth asking yourself:

‘What would I do if I was in that situation?’

This animation, produced by Joseph Benjamin Wheeler, shows how The Children's Society works with refugees to help them find their feet in society.

If you would like to support our work with refugees and other vulnerable young people in Britain, then please visit our donations page.