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What is a Refugee? 

According to the UNHCR website (accessed February 2019), a refugee is defined this way:

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

An internally displaced person, or IDP, is someone who has been forced to flee their home but never cross an international border. These individuals seek safety anywhere they can find it—in nearby towns, schools, settlements, internal camps, even forests and fields. IDPs, which include people displaced by internal strife and natural disasters, are the largest group that UNHCR assists. Unlike refugees, IDPs are not protected by international law or eligible to receive many types of aid because they are legally under the protection of their own government.

There are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. 40 million of these are internally displaced, 25.4 million are refugees (with over half of these under the age of 18) and 3.1 million are asylum seekers. There are also an estimated 10 million ‘stateless’ people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. 57% of refugees worldwide come from South Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria. One person is forcibly displaced every two seconds.

(Source: UNHCR UK website, accessed February 2019).

What are the refugee facts in the UK?

(See also the UNHCR Global Trends Report 2017 – PDF, accessed February 2019).

Of course, you may well know someone who is a refugee – they may be in your school or neighbourhood. If you don’t already know them, why not say hi to them and even see if you can help them!

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), by the end of 2017 there were 121,837 refugees, 40,365 pending asylum cases and 97 stateless persons in the UK. That’s around 0.25% of the UK’s total population.

Asylum applications to the UK were 26,350 in 2017. They increased slightly in 2015, when there were 32,733 applications for asylum, but this was still significantly lower than the peak of 84,000 applications back in 2002.

85% of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries. The least developed countries host one third of the total number of refugees globally. At the end of 2017, the country hosting the most refugees was Turkey – home to 3.5 million refugees. Other significant host countries for refugees were Pakistan (1.4 million), Uganda (1.2 million) and Lebanon (998,850).

In 2017, Germany received the highest number of asylum applications (199,200), Italy the second most (128,800) and France third (98,800). The UK received 5% of the asylum applications lodged in the EU in 2017.

(Sources: and accessed Februrary 2019)

Where do asylum seekers in the UK come from?

The top three countries of origin for refugees into the UK in 2017 were: Iran (2570), Pakistan (2495) and Iraq (2379).

(Source: accessed January 2019

What does God think about refugees?

As a Christian, I believe and know that God cares passionately about the vulnerable. Throughout the Bible, God makes his heart of love clear for all people – but especially those who are down, those who are lost, those without hope, the widows, the orphans, the abandoned. Followers of Jesus believe that they have been adopted into God’s family. In the same way, the heart of Christians is to care for the vulnerable. If you look around the world, you will find Christians at the forefront of helping those in need.

Psalm 10.17-18 – Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them.

Why should we care about refugees? 

Can you think of good reasons why we should care about refugees? 

Here’s a few good reasons to care about refugees…

1. They are people – just like you are.

2. Many people are escaping terrible situations that are dangerous and terrifying.

3. People should have the right to live in peace and without fear.

4. If we don’t care for other people, what does that say about us?

5. Imagine the refugee was a member of your family who you love. How would you want them to be treated? Or have you ever been to a new school or new place and felt alone, or felt like you didn’t know anyone? How would you want someone to treat you? The Bible tells us to treat others in the way we’d like to be treated.

6. If we don’t help people, their situation will get worse. They may be killed or raped or even sold.

7. Not helping people makes things worse for everyone in the world and creates more problems.

How can we help? Some ideas

1. We can make people feel welcome by speaking to them, smiling, helping them, inviting them round for food etc.

2. We can support people with giving stuff they need – like clothes, food

3. We can support agencies and charities that work with refugees in Britain.

4. We can give money to agencies and charities working with refugees around the world. Just make sure you give money to a charity that uses your money well and makes sure the money gets to the right people on the ground. 

What do actual refugees say themselves?

(Source: Refugee Action website, accessed September 2015).

Mohammed, who escaped from Eritrea – “I love the UK. I feel like a human here. I’m treated with dignity and respect regardless of my religion or race. I can speak without restrictions. I never knew what freedom meant before, but now I am free. Thank you for the safety, respect and values you share with refugees. Thank you for sharing with us your shelter, food, time, thoughts and smiles. For those who think negatively about refugees, we won’t blame you. It’s your right to argue against us, but just approach us, find out who we really are before you judge us.”

Video – the story of Dariush, a Journey to Safety

Direct video link –

Note there are many other stories which can be found by visiting the Refugee Action ‘Refugee Voices’ web page (accessed February 2019)

A Journey To Safety (Dariush’s Story) – Refugee Action