Britain received just one in thirty of all asylum claims made across the European Union in the second quarter of this year, new figures have revealed, despite the UK accounting for an eighth of the EU’s population.
It has led humanitarian groups to call on the Government to loosen its strict asylum application and visa rules at the same time as rethinking its refusal to share responsibility for taking in the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled to Europe.
David Cameron has so far resisted pressure to sign up to the EU-wide quota system to resettle 160,000 refugees, opting instead to run its own relocation programme and offering places to just 20,000 people in Syrian refugee camps.
None of those who have fled to Europe will be offered sanctuary in Britain because ministers are concerned it will persuade even more refugees to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.
Refugees can only claim asylum once they reach the UK border and not only is Britain geographically difficult to reach but the Refugee Council charity says the Government also makes it as “difficult as possible for people to get here” if it suspects they will claim asylum on arrival.
As The Independent revealed earlier this month, the number of Syrians who have successfully applied for UK visas has fallen by more than 40 per cent since the start of the Syrian civil war because of fears they may claim asylum.
Immigration lawyer Greg Ó Ceallaigh, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers, said this decline in the rate of successful applications was because entry clearance officers are “convinced that [Syrians] are going to claim asylum”.
A total of 7,470 people made their first asylum application to the UK between April and June this year – 3.5 per cent of the total 213,200 asylum claims made across the 28-state bloc.
Nearly four out of ten (38 per cent) of all asylum applications were made to Germany, with Hungary receiving 15 per cent and Australia 8 per cent of total claims in the three months to June.
Lisa Doyle, from the Refugee Council, said the figures “clearly demonstrate Britain must do more” to help the refugees arriving in Europe.
"As it's virtually impossible for refugees to reach Britain in order to claim asylum, it's vital the British Government steps forward and proactively offers to help share responsibility for protecting the vulnerable men, women and children arriving on Europe's shores.
"Lives depend on European countries standing alongside each other in solidarity."
Hungary has come under intense pressure in recent months after a huge influx of refugees from the Middle East and the right-wing government has constructed a fence along its border to stop more refugees entering the country.
It received the highest rate of asylum applications as a ratio of its population, with 3,317 asylum claims per million Hungarian citizens.
Britain ranked 17th on this measure having received 115 applicants for every million residents.
Britain is preparing to welcome the first group of Syrian refugees in the coming days under the Government's expanded resettlement programme to take in up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.
It came after pressure to admit more people from the war-ravaged country following the publication of photographs of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned with his mother and brother trying to cross from Turkey to Greece by boat.
Responding to the escalating crisis in Europe, the chair of Labour's refugee taskforce Yvette Cooper said: “Britain's approach of only planning to take refugees from the camps in Syria isn't working.
"It ignores the crisis also happening in Europe itself and means Britain has no leverage to get other countries to sign up to help. Countries don't need to sign up to a system of quotas decided by the EU, but they do all need to make their own offer of how many refugees they can help.
“David Cameron has to show some real leadership in Europe on this, not just stand on the sidelines. It is too serious for us to turn our backs."Reuse content