Who are refugees?

Being compelled to leave your own homeland due to unbearable circumstances beyond your control, to find yourself in a country with a totally different language, culture and rules is a really daunting experience. Every little thing becomes an obstacle in your life.

- Exiled Journalist,  2007 Fair Play Guide (2.2Mb, PDF)

  • In the UK, a refugee is defined as someone whose application for asylum has been accepted by the government. They have been recognised as needing protection under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
  • The term 'asylum seeker' has come to mean a person whom the government has not yet recognised as a refugee under the 1951 Convention. It is a human right to be able to seek asylum in another country.
  • According to the Home Office numbers of applications for asylum in the UK are still in a downward trend from the early 2000s. They represent a very small proportion of the people who arrive in the UK. 
    Download our map showing the main areas of the world that refugees in Scotland have come from.
  • Scotland’s estimated population in 2008 was five million. In this year, there were 2,859 asylum seekers in ‘dispersed accommodation’ in Scotland. This is just 0.05 per cent of the population. Dispersed accommodation is allocated by the Home Office and the person cannot decide where they live. It is nearly always ‘hard to let’ properties where other people generally do not want to live.
  • The UK government has ruled that people seeking asylum are not permitted to work, forcing them to rely on state support. This can be as little as £5 a day to live on. 
    Read the latest asylum support rates on the Home Office website
  • While numbers of refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK are small, globally they are on the rise thanks to conflict and political instability across the world. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there were 43.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2009, the highest number since the mid-1990s. This number includes over 16 million refugees and asylum seekers. 
    Find out more about global refugee numbers on the UNHCR website