The Government’s shameful response to the refugee crisis in four charts

Britain's increasingly unwelcoming approach to those fleeing war and persecution - highlighted by figures analysed by The Independent - is labelled 'woefully inadequate'

Harry Lambert
Tuesday 19 January 2016 13:01
If the UK had accepted its fair share of refugees, the Calais Jungle would not exist.
If the UK had accepted its fair share of refugees, the Calais Jungle would not exist.

The UK has let in 170,000 fewer refugees than its fair share over the past two years, new analysis by the Independent can reveal.

Over the past two years the UK - which has a population of 65 million - has provided refuge to just over 35,000 people fleeing war and persecution each year.

That is fewer than Hungary (143,000), Sweden (91,000) and Austria (53,000), all countries with populations of less than 10 million.

Charities and refugee groups condemned Britain's response to the mounting refugee crisis as highlighted by the figures, labelling it "woefully inadequate".

Based on analysis of the number of refugees who entered 30 European countries during 2014 and 2015 - around 1.9 million - the UK's 'fair share' of refugees based on its population would have been 240,000, or 120,000 a year.

A total of 660,000 arrived in the 30 countries - the 28 EU members plus Norway and Switzerland - in 2014 and 1.27m are estimated to have entered in 2015, based on Eurostat data for the first nine months of last year.

These 30 countries have a combined population of 522m, meaning one refugee per year has arrived for every 540 Europeans.

If every country accepted its ‘fair’ share of refugees, they would accept one for every 540 of their population in each of the past two years.

On that basis, a country the size of the UK, with 65m inhabitants, should have accepted 120,000 refugees per year in 2014-2015.

By only taking 35,000, the UK has taken 85,000 fewer each year than its fair share. No other country has been as unwelcoming.

By this measure, the actual number of refugees taken in under the Conservative Government since January 2014 represents only three for every 10 it should have accepted - leaving other countries to make up the difference.

Germany has taken 21 for every 10 it should have taken, while Sweden has taken 50 and Hungary has taken 78.

This analysis comes in the wake of news that a British man was spared jail after trying to smuggle a four-year old girl out of the Calais Jungle and reunite her with relatives in Britain.

The UK’s refugee response under the Tories offers a stark contrast to Germany’s - which has accepted nine times as many over the past two years.

Italy and France, which have similar populations to the UK, let in 73,000 and 67,000 refugees per year respectively in 2014 and 2015.

Britain has actually accepted fewer refugees in the past two years than it accepted per year in the previous 16 years, despite the number of European refugees tripling in 2014-2015.

From 1998 to 2013, the number of refugees fleeing to Europe was fairly constant. Each year, around 350,000 refugees were accepted into the 30 European countries.

After never exceeding 465,000 in any year between 1998 and 2013, Europe has accepted nearly two million in two years.

Yet the UK has cut its number of accepted asylum seekers by a fifth. Germany has taken five times as many.

The Scandinavian and Baltic states have also accepted many more.

Only seven of Europe’s 30 countries have accepted fewer refugees per year in 2014-2015 than they did in 1998-2013.

They are coloured in red in the chart below. The UK is one of them.

The UK’s unwelcoming approach is a relatively recent phenomenon. Between 1998 and 2013, it had a similar arrangement to Germany and France.

All three countries accepted around one refugee for every 1,500 inhabitants, in line with the average across Europe.

It was the Iberian and Baltic states who were the harshest hosts in Europe, and the UK had a better record than other big countries like Italy, Spain and Poland.

The International Rescue Committee welcomed the Independent’s analysis.

“These figures provide yet more evidence that the Government’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis is woefully inadequate,” said Jane Waterman, UK Executive Director of the IRC.

“The UK have offered sanctuary in a year to the same number as have been arriving in Munich over a single weekend.”

“Of course there are limits, but our considered view is that the UK could easily take more.”

Kirsty McNeil, Campaigns Director of Save The Children, added: “Britain can't fix the refugee crisis alone, but we can play a greater role. It is time for Britain to offer a safe home to 3,000 child refugees.”

And Help Refugees, another charity, called the figures "disappointing to see."

"This problem is especially acute for the hundreds of unaccompanied minors in refugee camps like Calais who, both legally and morally, should be allowed to join their immediate family living in the UK," spokesperson said.

At a time when Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with Europe, his Government's refugee policy is unlikely to have created much goodwill among European leaders.

Eurostat's figures for the UK are collated slightly differently to the British government's, but the two sets of numbers are in line with another. The Independent has sought comment from the Home Office.

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