How many are coming, and from where?

In 2017, 3,479 persons applied for asylum in Denmark, and 2,390 cases were opened. This is around 300 per month, and this level has been very stable since spring 2016. It is the lowest number in 9 years, and a steep fall compared to the previous years. Read more about the reasons why fewer refugees are coming to Denmark

At the same time, the percentage of people who are granted asylum, has dropped significantly: from 85% in 2015 to 36% in 2017. Residence permits were granted to 2,749, but almost all of them had arrived the year before. The profile of the applicants has changed a lot during recent years (see more about this below), which has an impact on the number of positive decisions, and a quite new phenomenon is almost one in five who applied for asylum already had a residence permit‚ most often on grounds of family reunification.

Also, Denmark has since 2015 not accepted the 500 resettlement refugees from the UNHCR that we normally receive every year. However, by January 2018 there were still 5,000 people accommodated in the asylum camps, 19% had pending asylum cases with Immigration Service, 51% with Refugee Appeals Board and 16% were in deportation phase (rejected). There are only 25 camps left, and the goal is 19 per July 2018.

Approximately 65 people arrive every week at the moment. It is surprising that the numbers have not risen after Sweden stopped the ID control at Copenhagen airport in the first week of May. If you avoid the random control on the border from Germany, you are free to pass through Denmark again and seek asylum in Sweden. It seems that this information has not yet reached the newcomers in Europe.

NUMBER OF ASYLUM SEEKERS IN DENMARK 2009-2017 (gross numbers)


NUMBER OF ASYLUM SEEKERS IN DENMARK 2002-2017 (gross numbers)


The rise that Denmark experienced 2014-2016 was actually much higher in other parts of Europe, and it must be seen in the light of the highest number of refugees in the world ever. In 2015 more than 1 mio refugees came to Europe, which is twice as much as the year before. The number of new arrivals has decreased all over Europe since then, but the drop was more significant in Sweden and Denmark.

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

In 2016, 6,235 applications for asylum were submitted (the gross number). 12,710 cases were opened (registration number) – this number is higher than the gross number because many entered during the end of 2015 and did not get their case considered until 2016. 7,400 were granted asylum in 2016. Normally the registration number will be lower than the gross number, as a considerable part are sent back to other countries under the Dublin regulation, and therefore will not have their case decided in Denmark.

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

Who is seeking asylum in Denmark?

The balance in nationalities applying for asylum in Denmark has changed quite a lot from 2015 to 2018. Since 2013, Syrians have made up the largest part, but over the summer of 2016 Afghans outnumbered them. In 2014, Eritrean ws suddenly No 2 on the list, dropping to No 8 in 2016, but recently Eritreans have outnumbered Afghans. In the fall of 2015 we saw a sudden and short rise in the number of Iranians.

In January 2018, the top 3 nationalities were: Syria, Eritrea, Iran. Fourth place was shared between Morocco, Somalia, Stateless, Georgia and Albania. Only then came Afghanistan. The pattern at this time is fewer from the "classic" refugee countries, more from a number of other countries – and fewer people from each country.

41% of the asylum seekers in 2016 were children under 18 years. The percentage of unaccompanied minors was rising since autumn 2015, but has dropped again. In 2017 only 14% of the asylum seekers were unaccompanied minors. The fact that Morocco is suddenly high on the list is due to many of the unaccompanied coming from this country.



Main routes to Denmark

One of the reasons why there are now relatively more migrants arrive from Africa and fewer from the Middle East is the introduction of several border control operations in the Aegean, police actions against smugglers in Turkish coastal regions and the construction of a 800 km long concrete wall in the area between Suruc and Kobane.

Although, on average, between 2,000 and 4,000 boat migrants still sail from Turkey to Greece each month, compared to 2015 and 2015 this still means that relatively more arrivals from especially West Africa and Sub Sahara come via Libya. However, there are also some Syrians, who travel through Libya and cross the sea to Italy. It is a much more dangerous route, how many die in the desert of Sahara and drown in the Mediterranean.

The instability and violence in Libya means that the decade-long tradition of African and Asian labor migration to the country has been destabilized, and many no longer dare to stay there for work. At the same time, European actors increasingly collaborate with Libyan authorities and with several decentralized militias 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, but these have also resulted in massive drowning tragedies.

Those who succeed in coming to Europe meet new obstacles. Those trying to travel from Italy, across Austria, and north towards Germany and Scandinavia, are now being stopped at the Brenner Pass, the Alpine border between Italy and Austria. Since August 2017 about 1,000 migrants are stopped and returned every month by Austrian military, while Italian police have also upgraded the control of passenger ships to the north. In the fall of 2017, a few hundred also tried to sail to the Mangalia harbor in Romania via the old and dangerous route over the Black Sea.

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