People fleeing war-torn Syria for the safety of Europe are not necessarily refugees, Ukip’s leader has suggested, claiming that the EU is potentially opening its door to "millions and millions" of refugees.
Nigel Farage said the UK had “lost sight” of what a refugee was and that the definition used should be narrowed to reduce numbers.
“Genuine refugees have tended to be groups of people, ethnic groups or religious groups who were directly under persecution and were fleeing in fear of their lives,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday.
“The problem we’ve got now if you look at the definition of the EU’s common asylum policy if includes anyone fleeing from a war torn country and it even includes people fleeing extreme poverty.”
Mr Farage said the definition of who was a refugee was dependent on how many people European countries wanted to arrive.
“The problem we’ve got is we’ve opened the door to an exodus of biblical proportions meaning millions and millions of refugees. We’ve lost sight of what it is to be a refugee. How many millions does Europe want to take? That is the question.”
The eurosceptic politician said the UK should step up intrusive checks on cars and lorries to make it more difficult to cross borders.
He said he had not changed his mind on previous statements that the UK should ultimately accept some asylum seekers from Syria, but that this was unlikely to be possible in the short-term.
Germany is set to take 800,000 refugees as part of a drive to help people fleeing conflict in Syria, Eritrea, and other areas.
By comparison, David Cameron this summer said Britain would take just “a few hundred”.
Of the roughly 4 million people who have fled Syria due to the conflict around 98.3 per cent are stuck in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey.
The UK has refused to sign up to a UN scheme which calls for Western governments to accept at least 100,000 each. The UK has however delivered around £800m aid on the ground to Syria.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies