How many are coming, and from where?

Current numbers

In 2022 4,591 new asylum seekers were registered in Denmark. Almost half were Ukrainians whereof many have dropped the application, and around one hundred were evacuated Afghans. On top of this number comes 900 permits under the Special Act for Afghans and 35,000 under the Special Act for Ukrainians. At least 270 evacuated Afghans have left the country afterwards as they were welcomed in UK or the US.

Most of the 35,000 Ukrainians who were granted a stay under the Special Act have not been accommodtaed in the asylum system, but stayed in private homes or directly in the municipalities. But 589 have been rejected under the Special Act, and 800 Ukrainian asylum cases are pending (but put on hold so far).

Today there are 17 asylum camps in total; but the number was as high as 98 in 2015. There are around 2,600 people accommodated in the asylum camps, out of these 700 are staying in one of the three deportation camps, and other 700 are Ukrainians passing quickly through the system.

In general, the amount of asylum seekers arriving in Europe has been declining in recent years, as a consequence of the EU-Turkey deal and the increased control of EU's external borders, but is rising again. Sweden and Germany has also received fewer during recent years, but still receive 6 times more per capita than Denmark.

Development over time

In the light of the massive focus on refugees and the constant discussion about returning them, it might come as a surprise to many, that refugees only made up 1% of all foreigners who were granted residence permit in Denmark over many years. For instance, the municipalities only received 489 new refugees in 2020. People with asylum as their basis for residence only makes up for 1.9% of the population.

During the last 7-8 years, Denmark has seen some major changes in the arrival of asylum seekers: The number peaked at the end of 2015 with 21,000 new arrivals – but dropped overnight to a very low level where it still is. Lately the system has been dominated by evacuated Afghans and displaced Ukrainians.

The number of new applications has been historically low in recent years. In 2020, the border closures due to Covid-19 almost put a total stop to arrivals: only 1,515 new applications were filed in total (gross number), whihc is the lowest number ever registered. In 2018 for instance the number was 3,500.

Adding to this, Denmark has since 2015 not accepted the 500 resettlement refugees per year from UN which we did through 38 years. During the last 7 years, only 235 quota refugees have arrived in total, coming from Rwanda.

NUMBER OF ASYLUM SEEKERS IN DENMARK 2002-2020 (gross numbers)

Usually the gross number is used, though it includes people who will never have their case processed in Denmark, and will only stay a short time in the country. From 2019 Immigration Service is not publishing the actual number of opened cases, after Dublin negotiations etc. Read more under The Dublin regulation. If all gross numbers for European countries are added together, the number will be much higher than that actual number.

Another important fact is that now 25-30% of the gross number are applicants who already have a residence permit, usually as family reunified from Syria or Eritrea, which is a new development.

The "refugee crisis" 2014-16

The rise that Denmark experienced 2014-2016 was even higher in other parts of Europe, and it was mainly due to new and less dangerous access routes opening up via the Greek islands and then through Balkan countries. In 2015 more than 1 mio refugees came to Europe, which was twice as much as the year before. Both the outer and the inner border controls were intensified, and the number of new arrivals decreased all over Europe, but has risen again.

The all time record was October 2015 when 3,694 new applications were filed in one month.

In total, 80,000 people got a residence permit in Denmark in 2016, but only one out of nine was a refugee. The others got permits because of work, studies or family reunification.

Where do they come from?

The profile of the applicants has changed somewhat during the last 10 years, which affects the number of positive decisions, including the new phenomenon 'remote registrants' (applicants who already have another kind of residence permit) which is one in very three or forur applications.

The balance in nationalities applying for asylum in Denmark has changed quite a lot from 2015 to 2019. From 2013-2020, Syrians have made up the largest part, but over the years Afghans have often been number one. In 2014, Eritreans was suddenly number two on the list, dropping to number eight in 2016, and in 2019 rising again to a shared first place with Syria – this is, however, due to the 'remote registrants'.


In 2022, the top 5 nationalities were: Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran. Afghanistan was number one on the list in 2021 due to the evacuees. After 2015, fewer have come from the "classic" refugee countries, and more from a number of new countries – and fewer people from each country. A larger part fall under the procedure Manifestly Unfounded, among them applicants from Georgia and Albania.

41% of the asylum seekers in 2016 were children under 18 years, some of them were unaccompanied minors. In 2022, only 215 unaccompanied minors came, half of them Afghans. Some of the unaccompanied come from Morocco, but they are all rejected. The same young boys occur in statistics in several countries as they are not transferred according to the Dublin rules.


Main routes to Denmark

Almost everybody who ask for asylum in Denmark arrive illegally – with a smuggler or false papers. It's almost impossible to get a visa to Europe if you come from countries like Syria, Eritrea or Afghanistan.

The number of asylum seekers in Europe has dropped significantly due to border controls around and inside Europe after 2016, but rode again in 2022. In Denmark, numbers dropped even more and have not risen since.

There are still many boat migrants sailing from Turkey to Greece each month, but relatively more arrive via Libya. It is a much more dangerous route, and many die in the desert of Sahara and drown in the Mediterranean. Increase in patrols and criminalisation of rescue efforts has led to a higher percentage of drowned.

The instability and violence in Libya has led to European actors increasingly collaborating with several armed groups in Libyan on border control and the containment of migrants in camps, before they can travel across the Mediterranean. This has made the situation of migrants in Libya even more dangerous. Several have therefore attempted to travel over lesser known routes, such as Egypt and Tunisia to Italy.

UNHCR has an interactive homepage where you can see the current numbers of arrivals and drowned.

The number of arrivals change every year, but Spain, Italy and Greece are the countries that receive the largets number.

Those who succeed in coming to Europe meet new obstacles. In Greece and Italy it's almost impossible to survive as a refugee, and many end up in destitution on the streets. The Dublin regulation is also a challenge. All the way through Europe fences and control posts have been put up, making it very difficult to reach Scandinavia. Thousands are stuck in Lesbos and Bosnia under inhuman conditions.

Read a personal story of a journey from Eritrea to Denmark: The road to freedom goes through Hell.

See the Danish antrpologist Sine Plambech's touching documentary about a woman travelling from Nigeria to Italy to sell sex, Beckys Journey.