Population;Population;Immigration and immigrants
flyktninger, Persons with refugee background, refugees, principal applicants, resettlement refugees, quota refugees, asylum cases, asylum seekers, family reunification, marriage establishment, country backgroundImmigrants , Population, Population count, Population, Immigration and immigrants

Persons with refugee background


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Key figures

4.4 %

of the Norwegian population has refugee background

Persons with refugee background. 1 January
2020Change in per cent2020
2019 - 2020Proportion of persons with refugee background of all immigrants. Per centProportion of persons with refugee background of the whole population. Per cent
Total238 2811.930.14.4
Principal applicants173 5242.022.03.2
Asylum seekers115 0800.914.62.1
Resettlement refugees40 6766.65.10.8
Other refugees9 606-
Unspecified8 162-
By family connection to refugee64 7571.68.21.2
Family enlargement17 6562.12.20.3
Family reunification47 0551.56.00.9
Family unspecified46-

See selected tables from this statistics

Table 1 
Persons with refugee background, by years of residence and country background

Persons with refugee background, by years of residence and country background
0-4 years5-9 years10-19 years20 years and more
Western Europe212168197313
Eastern Europe9461 3489 92920 527
Africa18 32024 86422 6228 764
Asia including Turkey37 60315 39636 22135 162
North-America and Oceania1694787
South and Central America70955874 778
Unknown and other0000

Table 2 
Persons with refugee background by sex and citizenship.

Persons with refugee background by sex and citizenship.
Refugees with Norwegian citizenship, total146 60677 05669 550
Western Europe320159161
Eastern Europe25 20812 56312 645
Africa40 47721 11919 358
Asia including Turkey76 17440 97835 196
North-America and Oceania402515
South and Central America4 3872 2122 175
Refugees with foreign citizenship, total91 67552 31639 359
Western Europe570286284
Eastern Europe7 5423 6133 929
Africa34 09319 21414 879
Asia including Turkey48 20828 50919 699
North-America and Oceania1196059
South and Central America1 143634509

About the statistics

The statistics show the number of resident immigrants with refugee background as of 1 January every year.


Definitions of the main concepts and variables

Resident: Who is regarded as a resident of Norway and where in Norway a person shall be counted as a resident, is stipulated in the Population Registration Act of 16 January 1970. The regulations to the act were last amended effective 1 October 1998.

Duration of residence: Shows residence period in whole years as of the date of the file.

National background: Own, or mother's, or father's foreign country of birth. Immigrant category A has only 000 (Norway) as a national background.

Age is current age.

Citizenship is current citizenship.

Persons with refugee background refers to people with refugee as reason for immigration, as well as immigrants with family as reason for immigration who are reunited with a person with reason refugee.

Type of family unification: The variable specifies all family immigrations, distinguishing between reunification, accompanying person and formation/extension data. The classification is mainly based on assessments of dates of immigration and marriage (when relevant) of both the immigrant and the reference person, and on registrations of that variable in the UDB data.

Asylum seekers refers to asylum cases or residence on humanitarian grounds.

Resettlement refugees refers to refugees who are permitted to come to Norway following an organised selection, normally in conjuction with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In accordance with a proposal from the government, the parliament sets an annual quota for the number of resettlement refugees to be received by Norway.

"Other refugees" refers to refugees with families from mainly Bosnia and Herzegovina who have been granted a collective assesment.  

Simplified reason for immigration: Variable based on data from the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, in which escape has been given as a reason for the application for asylum.

Standard classifications

Statistics Norway's use of terms in immigrant-related statistics are from the statistical standard for classification of persons by immigration background

Country groupings: The standard for classification of countries and citizenships in population statistics

Administrative information

Name and topic

Name: Persons with refugee background
Topic: Population

Next release

Responsible division

Division for Population Statistics

Regional level

The nation and the counties.

The base data are on person level and can technically be distributed on all regional levels. Confidential considerations determine the regional level to be used in each case.

Frequency and timeliness


International reporting

Not relevant.


Data files at the individual level that are processed and stored long-term.


Background and purpose

The statistics are compiled to distinguish persons with a refugee background from other immigrants, and were published for the first time in 1999 as Dagens statistikk (Daily Statistics), Refugees 1 January 1998. Since then it has been published regularly.

It is not meant to replace the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration's statistics on decisions and legal grounds. The figures are not necessarily in agreement with the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration's statistics on decisions and legal grounds.

Users and applications

Research institutes, public administration, the media and private persons.

Equal treatment of users

Not relevant

Coherence with other statistics

Statistics on persons with refugee background show population numbers. The area is clearly connected with other migration statistics. Immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents and Immigrants by reason for immigration

Immigration and emigration numbers can be found in the migration statistics for each calendar year.

Legal authority

§§ 2-1, 2-2, 3-2.

EEA reference

Not relevant.



Covers all persons who at one time arrived in Norway as refugees (including families) and neither have parents nor grandparents born in Norway, registered as a resident of Norway on 1 January (for who is counted for as a resident of Norway, see section 4.1 in "About the statistics) The persons does not necessarily have refugee status under the Geneva Convention. Children born to refugees after their arrival in Norway are not counted

Who is regarded as a resident of Norway and where in Norway a person will be counted as a resident, is stipulated in the Population Registration Act of 16 January 1970. The regulations to the act were last amended effective 1 October 1998.

Asylum seekers and persons on short-term stays (less than six months) are not registered as residents in the population register and thus not included in the statistics.

Data sources and sampling

The data is the result of a linkage between different data sources. The most important data sources are the Central Population Register (CPR) in the Directorate of Taxes, and the Aliens Register (Utlendingsdatabasen –UDB) in the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration.

The CPR is the most important data source in Statistics Norway's population statistics system. In addition, data from the 1960 and 1970 population censuses are included as a supplement. The same applies to older statistical files which originate from population register data. The definition of first-time immigrations is based on CPR data alone.

In 2004, UDB replaced the Fremkon register (the old Aliens register) and the Refugee Register. Central information from these two registers were adapted to new standards and included in UDB. As a result, UDB now contains data going back to 1991, several years before UDB was introduced in the handling of cases.

The single most important variable in UDB for the statistics is reason for decision. If the information on that variable is missing, other similar variables are used.

An important supplementary source is the 2004 edition of the file for reason for immigration produced in 1995 and updated by use of data from the Refugee Register. It covers the persons that do not have satisfying information in UDB.

The population register data have been processed. The new focus in the processing leading to reason for immigration is the task to achieve the best linkage possible between the ID number in UDB and Personal Identification Number, and subsequently to find the first reason for immigration for as many foreign-born as possible.

The process of obtaining a linkage between the two ID number series is based on links that are found both in UDB and CPR. These links are controlled, linked and compared, and improved considerably. The result is a common definition of the persons in the two input data sets.

When this task is accomplished, the next step is to find the information in UDB that, as best as possible, states the reason for the first immigration event registered in the CPR.

One challenge in this connection is that most persons are registered with several cases (even if most of them are just renewals), and that the information may differ from case to case. In many cases the most specific information is found on some of the later cases registered on a person. For some persons this comprehensive information is copied to the former cases.

Another challenge is to identify the case which most probably is related to the first immigration registered in the CPR. There are no variables in UDB that make it possible to pick out the most relevant case in all cases.

The main principle is that the reason for immigration is taken from the last registration before the immigration was registered in the CPR, but there are exceptions if the actual case does not provide sufficient and reliable information. In these cases other registrations or sources are used as indication of the reason for immigration.

One of these supplementary sources is the file of reason for immigration produced in 2006. That year the task was resolved by finding the most relevant case for each of the main reasons, and then make a choice between these reasons (for persons with more than one main reason). The choice was based on the main reason which is seen as the most reliable in each case. In reality, refugee as reason for immigration was chosen before the others.

In case of missing source of reason for immigration imputations are made, based on variables like citizenship and age at the immigration. In general, there is a greater need for imputations in the older data (from the beginning of the 1990s and earlier) than in data registered in the new UDB system (started in 2004).

In this process, some children without their own reason for immigration get a value from their parents.

The problems with varying reliability may have the effect that some persons are allocated e.g. Refugee as the reason for immigration in stead of Family, as would have been the result if the registrations had been more complete.

The next challenge is to identify the most probable reference in Norway (the "resident person") in family immigration cases. If this reference is not stated in the UDB data, CPR information on relationships is used to find the spouse, children, parents or siblings that possibly may have been the reference at the first immigration. In this process spouse takes precedence over the other categories. The method identifies persons that may have been the reference for foreign-born. However, the method does not guarantee that the identified person actually and legally was the reference.

The construction of a variable called "type of family unification" (distinguishing between reunification, accompanying person and formation/extension) also causes several challenges, both concerning missing data and conceptual difficulties. The classification is mainly based on assessments of dates of immigration and marriage (when relevant) of both the immigrant and the reference person, and on registrations of that variable in the UDB data. The determination of limit values used in the classification is based on assessments.

Not relevant.

Collection of data, editing and estimations

Data from the Population Register is transfered to SSB every day. SSB receives a file with data from UDB once a year.

In addition to the checks made by the DSF, Statistics Norway performs checks for statistical purposes. For more details of our control routines in the various subject areas, see: Dokumentasjon av BESYS-befolkningsstatistikksystemet. Befolkningsendringer i 1998 og befolkningsbasen (BEBAS) 1. januar 2000. Anne Sofie Brørs, Kirsten Dybendal, Aslaug Hurlen Foss og Trude Jakobsen, Notat 2000/24 Statistisk sentralbyrå. (In Norwegian only)

Not relevant.

Seasonal adjustment

Not relevant


If a figure in a table consists of three or fewer units and disclosing these units can lead to identification of individuals, the figure is rounded up or the table cell left empty.

Comparability over time and space

Time: The figures are comparable from 1998, the first year the statistics were published.

Place: Because the population is small, the figures are little suited to analysis at the smallest geographical level. In many municipalities, particularly the small ones, the figures from year to year can vary considerably, often because of the location of the reception centres for asylum seekers.

Figures at the municipal level have to be specially ordered and meet privacy protection requirements.

Accuracy and reliability

Sources of error and uncertainty

Some errors in connection with collecting and processing data are unavoidable and may include coding, revision and data processing errors. The processing includes imputations and decisions which may be debatable. New information in the future may lead to the correction of errors made on an earlier occasion.

Errors and uncertainties are more common in the oldest data (especially in 1990).

None because total figures rather than sample material is used.

None because total figures rather than sample material is used.

The quality of the basic data from the Central Population Register is generally very good for statistical purposes. Two drawbacks are nevertheless late or missing notifications and registration of residence.

Some persons neglect to register emigration and it results in missing notifications. Late notifications cause events to be recorded and counted during the wrong calendar year. This is less problematic when the numbers are added up for several years.


Not relevant