30 per cent of immigrants have refugee background


A total of 217 200 persons with a refugee background were living in Norway on 1 January 2017. This corresponds to 30 per cent of immigrants in Norway, and four per cent of the total population. Somalia is still the largest group.

During 2016, the number of persons with a refugee background increased by 17 800. Persons with a Syrian background had the strongest growth. At the beginning of 2017, there were 19 900 persons with a refugee background from Syria, while the corresponding figure for the previous year was 9 100. Syrians now make up the third largest group with a refugee background in Norway, and some Syrian asylum seekers are still waiting for settlement. Somalia remains the largest group of persons with a refugee background, with 27 600, followed by Iraq (20 800). Eritrea is the fourth largest group with 14 100 persons.

Figure 1.  Persons with a refugee background. 1 January

2000 2005 2010 2017
Somalia 6098 11534 17665 27624
Iraq 6524 14335 19768 20818
Syria 346 724 1139 19943
Eritrea 356 1321 4460 19250
Afghanistan 617 4715 8912 15538
Iran 8260 10628 12067 14707
Bosnia-Hercegovina 11352 12073 12166 11717
Vietnam 10422 10577 11609 11305

Three out of four are principal applicants

A total of 160 000 persons with a refugee background were registered as principal applicants as of 1 January 2017, while 57 200 immigrated through family reunification with a refugee.

Among the 160 000 persons registered as principal applicants, 108 400 are registered as former asylum seekers who have been granted a residence permit, 33 300 are resettlement refugees, and around 18 300 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.

Scope of family immigration influenced by country background

A total of 40 800 persons immigrated through family reunification with a refugee. A total of 16 400 immigrated for family establishment through marriage.

Among the major groups with a refugee background, Sri Lanka and Somalia stand out with the highest proportion of family immigrants to a principal applicant, with more than 40 per cent. Iraq also has a significant proportion of family immigrants, with 36 per cent.

The lowest share of family immigrants was for Bosnians, with just 10 per cent. This group mostly came to Norway as families, and there are very few from this country who can now be granted residence as a refugee in Norway. Family immigration from Syria is also at a low level since most refugees are newcomers. It takes time before they have the possibility to reunify with their families.