New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. World
  2. Asia
19 August 2021updated 04 Sep 2021 11:50am

How the US and the UK accept far fewer Afghan refugees than other countries

The UK took in 9,351 Afghan refugees in 2020, while Germany accommodated 148,000. 

By Nicu Calcea

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has prompted the start of a mass exodus of people fleeing the country’s new government. Western countries have announced plans to accept some of these people, with the UK committing to welcome 20,000 people over the next five years, with women and religious minorities receiving priority access to the resettlement programme. 

Canada and the US have announced similar plans, while countries such as Austria and Switzerland have responded by saying they will resist a large influx of refugees from Afghanistan. 

The US and the UK accept far fewer Afghan refugees than other countries
Number of refugees from Afghanistan by host country, 2020

Figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), however, show that Europe and North America are not the top destinations for Afghan refugees. Neighbouring countries are generally the main destination, with Pakistan hosting nearly 1.5 million refugees from Afghanistan in 2020, over half of all the refugees accounted for by the UNHCR (55.4 per cent). Iran, another country bordering Afghanistan, has taken in some 780,000 refugees, or around 30 per cent of the total number of Afghan refugees across the world. Turkey was hosting some 125,100 asylum-seekers from Afghanistan. 

In Europe, Germany has taken in the biggest number of Afghan migrants: 148,000 refugees and 33,100 asylum-seekers. By comparison, there were only 9,351 refugees and 3,227 asylum-seekers from Afghanistan in the UK in 2020. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

According to the UNHCR’s assessments, there were nearly three million internally displaced people in Afghanistan in 2020. This year, between 20,000 to 30,000 additional people were fleeing the country every week. Both numbers are likely to increase as the Taliban’s takeover sets in. 

[See also: The fall of Afghanistan: all the New Statesman’s coverage]

Content from our partners
We need an urgent review of UK pensions
The future of private credit
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors

This article appears in the 25 Aug 2021 issue of the New Statesman, The Retreat