Top 3 countries in europe hosting refugees and asylum-seekers

This article was first published in November 2020. It was updated on 29 June 2022 to include the 2021 figures.

1. Lebanon – 19.8 per cent of the total population

Lebanon, with a population of 6.8 million, is currently hosting an estimated 1.5 million refugees from Syria. The real number is probably even higher because the national authorities demanded that the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) stop the registration of new refugees in 2015. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees live in the country.

Lebanon itself has been ravaged by a civil war that lasted from 1975 until 1990. It is a densely populated country with a fragile political balance between different ethnic and religious groups.

Since 2019, the situation has gone from bad to worse, with large-scale popular protests eventually leading to the Prime Minister’s resignation. Then, in 2020, Beirut was shaken by a huge explosion, which killed more than 200 people, injured more than 6,000 and left over 300,000 homeless.

Unemployment is sky-high. The country’s currency has collapsed, reaching a historic low in May 2022, meaning much of the population is no longer able to afford the necessities of survival. On top of all this came the Covid-19 pandemic, followed by a rapid rise in food and energy prices as a result of the war in Ukraine.

More than 50 per cent of the population live below the poverty line. For Syrian refugees, the figure is even higher, with 83 per cent living in extreme poverty.

Lebanon now has an urgent need for the rest of the world to step up and help the country that has taken the greatest responsibility for helping displaced people.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) works to support refugees and displaced people in over 35 countries around the world. Support our work today

2. Jordan – 10.4 per cent

Jordan has received over one million refugees in the last ten years. The vast majority were fleeing neighbouring Syria. While a comparatively small number have since decided to return to Syria or have been able to resettle in other countries, there are still more than 675,000 Syrian refugees registered with the UN refugee agency living in Jordan today.

Over 80 per cent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in urban centres where they face the challenge of finding sustainable work and affordable housing. Competition for limited employment opportunities can lead to tensions with the local population. The remaining 20 per cent of Syrian refugees live in one of two refugee camps, established by the Jordanian authorities for Syrian refugees and managed by the UN refugee agency.

Jordan also houses 2.3 million Palestinian refugees. These are people who fled or were expelled from their country during the 1947-49 Palestine war and the Six Day War in 1967, and their descendants.

3. Nauru – 6.8 per cent

This small island state has received boat refugees who were trying to get to Australia when Australian authorities refused to accept them. The UN refugee agency has been highly critical of the agreement Australia has made with Nauru and other countries and is concerned about the reprehensible conditions the refugees live under. Australia has now agreed to stop sending refugees to Nauru.

4. Turkey – 5.0 per cent

Turkey has received more refugees than any other country since 2011 – as many as 4.3 million. Turkey is a large and populous country and is better equipped to handle the challenge than, for example, Lebanon. Nevertheless, it is challenging to provide protection to such a large number of people within a few short years.

Turkey signed an agreement with the European Union (EU) in 2016 that prevents refugees from moving on to Europe. This has had serious consequences for both the refugees who have made it to Greece and those who remain in Turkey.

5. Uganda – 3.7 per cent

Uganda has received 1.8 million refugees over the last ten years and is one of the largest recipients of refugees in the world. In recent years, Uganda has provided protection to people from DR Congo and South Sudan in particular, but the country has also received refugees from Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda and several other countries. Uganda is a pioneer in integrating refugees and giving them full rights.

Top 10 refugee-receiving countries

Welcome to UNHCR’s Refugee Population Statistics Database

The database contains information about forcibly displaced populations spanning more than70 years of statistical activities. It covers displaced populations such as refugees, asylum seekers andinternally displaced people, including their demographics. Stateless people are also included, most ofwho have never been displaced. The database also reflects the different types of solutions fordisplaced populations such as repatriation or resettlement.

This website is based on three data sources:

  • UNHCR data collected through its annual statistical activities with some data going back asfar as 1951, the year UNHCR was created.
  • Data provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the NearEast (UNRWA).Information is limited to registered Palestine refugees under UNRWA’s mandate.
  • Data provided by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre(IDMC).Information is limited to people displaced within their country due to conflict or violence.

For methodological explanations, data limitations and coverage, visit the Methodology page.

Overall figures of immigrants in European society

On 1 January 2021, there were

  • circle image 2 people with European flag

    447.2 million inhabitants living in the EU


  • inhibitants image icon

    23.7 million

    were non-EU citizens

    (5.3% of EU’s total population)

  • inhibitants image icon

    37.5 million

    people were born outside the EU*

    (8.4% of all EU inhabitants)

*This does not include those born in another Member State

The share of foreign-born population in the EU is lower than in most high-income countries.

Foreign-born residents per country

Source: Eurostat, UNDESA, data from 2020
Note: non-EU born in case of the EU (i.e. those born in another Member State are not included); if intra-EU mobile persons were included, the share would be 12.4%

Reasons to stay in Europe

All valid residence permits at the end of 2021 by reason

Source: Eurostat; without Denmark; end of 2020 data in case of Croatia, Finland, Hungary and Ireland; “other” includes permits issued for the reason of residence only, permits issued to victims of trafficking of human beings and unaccompanied minors, as well as permits issued for all other reasons for which residence permits may be issued and which are not covered by the other categories

Among the non-EU citizens residing in the EU with a valid residence permit at the end of 2021, most were holding permits issued for family or work reasons.

Employment of immigrants

In 2021, 8.84 million non-EU citizens were employed in the EU labour market, out of 189.7 million persons aged from 20 to 64, corresponding to 4.7% of the total.

The employment rate in the EU in the working-age population is higher for EU citizens (74%), than for non-EU citizens (59.1%) in 2021.

Fact to consider: Many non-EU citizens are “essential workers”.

Over-represented sectors

In 2021, non-EU citizens were over-represented in some specific economic sectors such as:

Sector Overall employment of non-EU citizens Overall employment of EU citizens Accommodation and food service activities 10.2% 3.7%   Administrative and support service activities 7.7% 3.8% Domestic work 6.7% 0.7% Construction 9.2% 6.6%

Over-representation by occupation

In terms of occupations, non-EU citizens were over-represented among:

Occupational group Overall employment of non-EU citizens Overall employment of EU citizens Cleaners and helpers 11.8%


Personal services workers 6.3% 3.7% Personal care workers 5.7% 3.0% Building and related trades workers, excluding electricians 6.5% 3.7% Labourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport 6.0% 2.5% Food preparation assistants 2.3% 0.6% Agricultural, forestry and fishery labourers 2.8% 0.7%

Under-represented sectors

Non-EU citizens were under-represented in other economic sectors, including:

Sector Overall employment of non-EU citizens Overall employment of EU citizens Public administration and defence, compulsory social security 1.3% 7.5% Education 3.8% 7.7% Human health and social work activities 8.3% 11.3% Professional, scientific and technical activities 3.5% 5.9%

Under-representation by occupation

On the other hand, non-EU citizens were under-represented among:

Occupational group Overall employment of non-EU citizens Overall employment of EU citizens Teaching professionals 2.4% 5.6% Business and administration associate professionals 2.7% 6.9% General and keyboard clerks 1.6% 4.4% Science and engineering associate professionals 1.7% 3.6% Business and administration professionals 2.2% 4.4% Health professionals 1.4% 3.1%

Source: Eurostat

Refugees in Europe

Refugees from Ukraine

Since Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine in February 2022, Europe has received the largest number of people fleeing war since World War II. For up-to-date details of the efforts to welcome people fleeing the war in Ukraine and to provide temporary protection, see the dedicated page Migration management: Welcoming refugees from Ukraine.

Overall situation at end of 2021

Based on data from UNHCR, at the end of 2021, all around the world there were:

  • 27.1 million refugees and
  • 53.2 million internally displaced persons (due to conflict and violence).

Fact to consider: at the end of 2021, less than 10% of all the world’s refugees and only a fraction of internally displaced persons were living in the EU.

The share of refugees in the EU was 0.6% compared to its total population.

Number of refugees compared to total population

Several countries around the world host a large refugee population:

Source: UNHCR
Note: The graph shows the ten countries hosting the most refugees and the EU

Fact to consider: The majority of refugees from Africa and Asia do not come to Europe, but rather move to neighbouring countries.

Migration to and from the EU

Migration numbers in 2020

  • 1.92 million


    immigrated to the EU

  • 0.96 million


    emigrated from the EU

  • Total net immigration to the EU: 0.96 million persons

Fact to consider: Without migration, the European population would have shrunk by half a million in 2019, given that 4.2 million children were born and 4.7 million people died in the EU. In 2020, EU population shrunk by about 100 thousand people (from 447.3 million on 1 January 2020 to 447.2 million on 1 January 2021), due to a combination of less births, more deaths and less net migration.

In 2021, 2.95 million first residence permits were issued in the EU, compared to 2.3 million in 2020, reaching almost similar numbers as before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (3.0 million in 2019). The decrease was driven by the travel restrictions introduced to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The pandemic had a particularly strong negative impact on education-related permits and, as a result, their share decreased from 13% in 2019 to 11% in 2020. In 2021, there was a particularly large increase in case of work-related permits, the share of which grew from 39% in 2020 to 45% in 2021. In 2021, first permits were issued for the following reasons:

Source: Eurostat; “other” includes permits issued for the reason of residence only, permits issued to victims of trafficking of human beings and unaccompanied minors, as well as permits issued for all other reasons for which residence permits may be issued and which are not covered by the other categories

Top 10 nationalities of first residence permits issued in EU Member States in 2021

Source: Eurostat; China including Hong Kong

Seeking asylum in Europe

First time asylum applicants by continent of origin (2021)

Source: Eurostat

Top 15 nationalities of first time asylum applicants (2021)

Source: Eurostat

In 2021, asylum seekers came from around 140 countries.

632,300 applications, including 537,300 first time applications, were lodged in the EU in 2021, an increase of 34% in comparison to 2020, but 10% less than in 2019, before COVID.

A significant share of applicants come from visa-free countries (15% of first time applicants in 2021, down from 25% in 2020 because of less applicants from Latin America) who enter the EU legally, mostly from:

  • Venezuela (2.8% of all first time applications)
  • Georgia (2.3%)
  • Colombia (2.2%)
  • Albania (1.8%)
  • Moldova (1.2%)
  • asylum application icon

    Most first time applications were lodged in:

    • Germany (148,200)
    • France (103,800)
    • Spain (62,100)
    • Italy (45,200)
    • Austria (37,800)

    asylum application icon

    Relative to the population, in 2021, the highest number of first time asylum applications was lodged in:

    • Cyprus (1 480 per 100,000 inhabitants)
    • Austria (423)
    • Slovenia (247)


First time asylum applications per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020:

Source: Eurostat

In 2021, 183,600 people seeking asylum were under 18 years old – nearly 13% of them (23,300) were unaccompanied children. Most of unaccompanied children came from Afghanistan, Syria and Bangladesh.

In the first half of 2022, 405,500 asylum applications (from which 365,400 first time applications) were lodged in the EU. This is 63% more than in the same period of 2021, and also 21% higher compared to pre-COVID times (same period of 2019). In March 2022, the number of applications exceeded 80,000, the highest monthly level since 2016.

Recognition of refugees

In 2021, EU countries took 524,400 first instance asylum decisions. 39% of these decisions were positive:

  • 112,700 persons received refugee status,
  • 61,400 were granted subsidiary protection status and
  • 28,000 received humanitarian status.

A further 207,900 final decisions were made following an appeal, including:

  • 26,600 decisions granting refugee status,
  • 19,300 granting subsidiary protection status and
  • 26,500 granting humanitarian status.



Overall, EU countries granted protection to around 275,000 people in 2021.

In the first half of 2022, the recognition rate increased: out of 303,400 first instance asylum decisions, 48% were positive, including:

  • 72,800 decisions granting refugee status,
  • 47,200 granting subsidiary protection status and
  • 26,800 granting humanitarian status.

Effectiveness of the asylum system

  • Fluctuating backlog
    At the end of May 2022, 774,100 asylum applications were pending – 15% more than one year earlier (675,200). The backlog continuously increased between May 2021 and April 2022. 
  • Varying processing times across Member States
    The ratio of pending cases and applications varies widely across Member States, reflecting the differences in processing time. According to EUAA data, at the end of June 2022, half of the cases pending at first instance had been pending for less than six months.

Number of pending applications compared to total number of applications in a given month

Source: Eurostat

  • Varying recognition rates across EU countries
    The EU’s asylum system remains undermined due to significant differences in recognition rates across EU countries. For example, in 2021 the recognition rate of Afghan citizens at first instance ranged from 9% in Bulgaria to 100% in Spain and Portugal (from those Member States that issued at least 100 first instance decisions to Afghan citizens).
  • Dublin rules in practice

    In 2020, Member States reported 94,600 outgoing requests under the Dublin rules sent to other Member States and other countries participating in the Dublin system to take responsibility for examining an application for international protection. Out of 86,000 decisions on such requests, 50,600 (59%) were accepted and 12,500 outgoing transfers were executed, corresponding to 25% of accepted requests.


In 2021, around 22,500 people in need of international protection were resettled from non-EU countries to EU Member States, 156% more than in 2020 and 2% more than in 2019.

Syrian and Afghan were by far the main nationalities, accounting for 43% and 29% of people resettled, respectively.

Under joint EU resettlement schemes, more than 100,000 persons found protection in the EU since 2015. Member States receive support from the EU budget for these resettlements.

Irregular border crossings

Overall figures

Irregular EU border crossings by nationality in 2021

Source: Frontex


  localisation 199,900 irregular border crossings
Increased by 58% compared to 2020

This includes:


    crossing boat

    112,600 sea crossings in 2021

    Increase of 29% compared to 2020

  • crossing map

    87,300 land border crossings in 2021

    Increase of 124% compared to 2020



153,900 illegal border crossings (January – July 2022)

85% more than in the same period of 2021


Geographical distribution



  • Increase in crossings on the Central Mediterranean (+90%, 67,700), the Eastern Mediterranean (+1%, 20,600) and the Eastern borders (+1213%, 8,100) routes
  • Decrease in crossings on the Western Mediterranean (including the Atlantic route from Western Africa to the Canary islands) (-2%, 40,800)
  • 36% increase of deaths at sea: 3,171 persons were reported dead or missing in 2021 on the three main routes, compared to 2,327 in 2020
  • Looking at the period between January and July, in 2022 there was an increase in crossings on the Central Mediterranean (+42%, 41,500),  the Eastern Mediterranean (+122%, 21,500) and the Western Mediterranean routes (+1%, 16,400) compared to the same period in 2021
  • Between January and July 2022, there was a decrease in crossings on the Eastern borders route (-21%, 3,300) compared to the same period in 2021
  • 33% decrease of deaths at sea: 1,533 persons were reported dead or missing in January-August 2022 on the three main routes, compared to 2,278 in the same period of 2021


Overall figures



    340,500 non-EU citizens ordered to leave the EU

    A 14% decrease compared to 2020




    396,400 non-EU citizens ordered to leave the EU


Among the main countries of nationality of those ordered to leave the EU were:

  • Algeria (7.7%)
  • Albania (6.5%)
  • Morocco (6.2%)
  • Pakistan (5.4%)
  • Ukraine (5.2%)

Effectiveness of the return system

In 2021, 70,500 non-EU citizens were returned to a non-EU country. This corresponds to 21% of all return decisions issued during the year, increasing from 18% in 2020. The travel restriction introduced in the wake of the pandemic and the limited availability of flights made it difficult to carry out returns in 2020.

Among the main countries of origin of those returned outside of the EU in 2021 were:

  • Ukraine (12.8%)
  • Albania (12.7%)
  • Georgia (7.4%)

Among the nationalities with at least 5,000 return orders, the return rate was particularly low for those coming from

  • Eritrea (2.0%)
  • Libya (2.9%)
  • Côte d’Ivoire (3.2%)
  • Syria (3.5%)
  • Guinea (4.3%)

In 2021, the share of voluntary and forced returns was 50-50%. 77% of the returns were assisted returns - persons returned received logistical, financial and/ or other material assistance.

In the first half of 2022, 179 600 non-EU citizens were ordered to leave an EU Member State, and a total of 33 600 were returned to a non-EU country following an order to leave. Compared to the same period of 2021, the number of return orders and returns increased by 7% and 20%, respectively.

Short stay visas

In 2021, nearly 1,700 Member States’ consulates received 2.9 million short stay visa applications lodged by non-EU citizens, unchanged from 2020 but 83% less than in 2019.

In total, 2.4 million short stay visas were issued and 0.38 million were refused, amounting to an EU-wide refusal rate of 13.4% (down from 13.6% in 2020 but up from 9.9% in 2019).

Most applications were lodged in:

  • Russia (536,000) 
  • Türkiye (272,000)
  • Ukraine (194,000)
  • Saudi Arabia (173,000)
  • Morocco (157,000)

Most visa applications were processed by

  • France (652,000)
  • Spain (483,000)
  • Germany (346,000)
  • Greece (296,000)
  • Italy (213,000)

72% of all visas were issued for multiple entries. Short stay visas cover travel throughout the 26 Schengen countries for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

The Atlas on Migration

The Atlas on Migration of the European Commission’s Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography is an interactive resource of harmonised, up-to-date and validated data on the status of migration and demography in 27 EU Member States and 171 non-EU countries and territories.

European statistics on migration and asylum

Up-to-date European statistics on

and related information is available on Eurostat’s website.

Eurostat collects data from the National Statistics Authorities of the EU Member States and EFTA countries based on statistical regulations adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. Data and related metadata are quality assured in line with the European Statistics Code of Practice, and updated at regular intervals depending on the data collection. Statistical findings are published in Statistics Explained articles and other publications.    

Disclaimer: The above data is based on latest available information, updated on a quarterly basis, last update: 27 October 2022

Written by Jane