The Numbers Behind The 2014 Refugee Crisis, in 10 Points

Alice Corona
Sep 3, 2015 · 5 min read

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Asylum-seekers (pending cases)

Last year, the UNHCR’s statistics showed about 1,796,200 pending asylum application cases. That’s roughly 600,000 more than the previous year.

The increase more than doubled the increase in percentage in 2013, which was the previous year with the highest growth rate. The past two years showed the fastest increase in applications on record.

Asylum-seekers (pending cases) — Change from previous year

Almost 290,000 total asylum applications filed during 2014 came from Ukraine. To put this number in perspective, about 18% of all the asylum seekers applications filed during 2014 came from Ukraine. More than those from Syria (175K, or 11%).

Asylum-seekers, applications during 2014 by country or origin

Note that this number doesn’t necessarily mirror the size or gravity of the two crises. It could be due to more complex dynamics. For example, it’s easier to imagine that Ukrainians of Russian ethnicity would be quickly accepted by Russia as asylum seekers. And this almost-certainty could have pushed many Ukrainians to file the application.

To give you a sense of the abruptness of Ukraine’s crisis, at the start of 2014 there were less than 2,000 applications filed by Ukrainians and pending from the previous year. A number in the norm.

Asylum-seekers by country of origin — Applications pending at start of 2014 vs. applications filed during 2014

While Ukranian applications grew at a staggering 680% from the country’s numbers for 2013, Venezuela, Gambia, Iraq, Serbia and Kosovo and a few others also saw a relative growth over 100%.

Asylum-seekers — Change in pending cases at the start and at the end of 2014

Top countries for change in asylum-seekers pending cases during 2014

Of the 290,000 asylum seekers from Ukraine, 94% applied in Russia. They are likely Ethnic Russian.

Asylum-seekers’ flows: Applications during 2014 with Ukraine as country of origin

The behaviour that national authorities took towards Ukrainian asylum seekers varied greatly. For example, Russia granted Complementary Protection Status to 92% of the Ukranian asylum seekers’ applications it considered during 2014. This status refers to “persons who do not qualify for protection under refugee law instruments but are in need of international protection because they are at risk of serious harm”.

Portugal, Italy and Belarus awarded the Complementary Protection Status to 50% or more of the Ukraine applications. Many countries actually rejected the majority of the requests considered. In fact, Spain, The Netherlands and Denmark rejected almost all requests.

Top countries by percentage of rejected asylum seekers from Ukraine

Germany actually received roughly three times the number of asylum requests the US received from Mexico

Top flows for number of asylum-seekers’ applications during 2014

Turkey started 2014 with less than 19,000 applications from Iraq but ended the year with 54,000. This means that Turkey has started 2015 having to deal with 187% requests more than it started last year with.

Click on the chart to access the interactive version and explore other variables. Data from

On the positive side, pending asylum applications from South Sudan at the beginning of 2015 dropped by 88% percent from the previous period, from 31,447 at the start of 2014, to 3,785 at the start of 2015.

Top countries for drop in asylum-seekers’ pending cases during 2014

Russia is the country that received the most asylum applications (275,000). 271,000 of these were from Ukraine. Consider that these are more than the overall received from Germany (202,000), France (102,000) and the USA (96,000).

Asylum-seeker’s applications filed during 2014 per country of destination

Ukraine’s accounted for 290,000 asylum requests, 94% of which to Russia. More than those filed by people from Syria and Iraq put together.

Asylum-seeker’s applications filed during 2014 per country of origin

NOTE: You can find all the data, together with more interactive charts and articles on our dedicated resource: The Refugee Crisis in Data. You can follow it to see other insights and be updated about new ones.

The data presented here is about the “population of concern to UNHCR […]. This includes persons who are forcibly displaced (refugees, asylum-seekers, IDPs, etc.), those who have found a durable solution (returnees), as well stateless persons, most of whom have never been forcibly displaced. This categorization is neither identical to nor synonymous for the 59.5 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide, a figure that not only includes refugees and IDPs beyond UNHCR’s mandate but also excludes returnees and stateless persons.”

Read this page for more information on definitions used in this Silk.


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Silk is a place to explore the world through data. Each Silk contains data on a specific topic. Silk displays data as beautiful interactive charts, maps and web pages.

Alice Corona

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Stories with data, from the data collection (or scrape) to the data visualization. Data storytelling instructor. Currently project leader at


Silk is a place to explore the world through data. Each Silk contains data on a specific topic. Silk displays data as beautiful interactive charts, maps and web pages.