Four per cent of Norwegian population has refugee background
Population;Immigration and immigrants;Population
flyktninger, Persons with refugee background, refugees, principal applicants, resettlement refugees, quota refugees, asylum cases, asylum seekers, family reunification, marriage establishment, country backgroundPopulation, Immigrants , Population count, Immigration and immigrants, Population

Persons with refugee background1 January 2016



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Four per cent of Norwegian population has refugee background

A total of 199 400 persons with a refugee background were living in Norway on 1 January 2016. This corresponds to 3.8 per cent of the total population, and 29 per cent of immigrants in Norway. Somalia is the largest group followed by Iraq and Eritrea.

Persons with refugee background. 1 January
2016Change in per cent2016
2015 - 2016Proportion of persons with refugee background of all immigrants. Per centProportion of persons with refugee background of the whole population. Per cent
Total199 3936.028.53.8
Principal applicants146 0095.820.92.8
Asylum seekers97 3506.713.91.9
Resettlement refugees30 2097.84.30.6
Other refugees10 004-
Unspecified8 446-
By family connection to refugee53 3846.47.61.0
Family enlargement15 9232.72.30.3
Family reunification37 4138.15.40.7
Family unspecified48-

In 2015, the number of persons with a refugee background increased by 11 300. Persons with a Syrian background had the strongest growth, with an increase of 4 200.

Three out of four are principal applicants

A total of 146 000 persons with a refugee background were registered as principal applicants as of 1 January 2016, while 37 400 immigrated through family reunification with a refugee. A total of 15 900 immigrated for family establishment through marriage. Persons with a refugee background in Norway have backgrounds from 169 different countries and independent regions. The three largest groups with a refugee background are from Somalia (27 300), Iraq (20 600) and Eritrea (16 900).

Among the 146 000 people registered as principal applicants, 97 400 are registered as former asylum seekers who have been granted a residence permit, 30 200 are resettlement refugees, and around 18 400 are registered as other or unspecified grounds. The latter category is made up of refugees and families from Bosnia and Herzegovina who were granted a collective assessment in the early 1990s.

Most immigrants in Norway do not have a refugee background. Find out more in our statistics on reasons for immigration.

Many family immigrants from Sri Lanka, Somalia and Iraq

Among the major groups with a refugee background, Sri Lanka stands out with the highest proportion of family immigrants to principal applicant, with 43 per cent. Somalia and Iraq also have a significant proportion of family immigrants, with 39 and 36 per cent respectively.

More than 9 000 residents with refugee background from Syria

The number of persons with a refugee background from Syria saw a significant increase. As of 1 January 2016, 9 100 persons with a refugee background were registered as resident in Norway, while the corresponding figure for the previous year was 4 900. Syrians are now the eighth largest group with a refugee background in Norway. Most of them have a short duration of stay in Norway, with eight out of ten having lived in the country for less than three years. Around 28 per cent of Syrians are children.

In almost all municipalities

There were persons with a refugee background in 416 of the country’s 428 municipalities. In 34 of these municipalities, more than 1 000 persons had a refugee background. Oslo had the most residents with a refugee background with 46 600, followed by Bergen (10 300) and Trondheim (6 800).

Persons with a refugee background constituted 7 per cent of the capital’s entire population, but the highest share of persons with a refugee background as of 1 January 2016 was in Vadsø municipality, where this group made up 11 per cent of the population.

Persons with a refugee backgroundOpen and readClose

The statistics on persons with a refugee background include all persons with a refugee background who were resident on 1 January in the current year. The term 'persons with a refugee background' includes all persons whose reason for immigration status is 'refugee' and all persons with 'family' status who have been reunited with a family member. The breakdown is based on country of birth. A person with a refugee background will be included in the statistics every year that they are a resident. The statistics have been published since 1998.

More information can be found in About the statistics.