The new Conservative government’s insisted Britain would not join a mandatory European Union programme to resettle African refugees rescued from the Mediterranean Sea. The Home Secretary spelt out her stance as the European Commission detailed plans for EU member states in northern Europe to take a share of the migrants to ease the burden on Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta. Amnesty International condemned countries including Britain which are resisting efforts to respond to the humanitarian disaster. One short-term measure is to share 20,000 migrants who have not made the Mediterranean crossing and have been identified by the UN refugee agency as genuine asylum seekers qualifying for protection. This would be funded by €50m (£36m), with Brussels effectively paying countries to take in migrants according to a distribution key based on population size, national wealth, numbers of asylum seekers already present, and unemployment levels. If Britain participated, it would be allocated 2,309 of the 20,000.
The United Kingdom granted 14,605 asylum applications in 2014, according to figures from Eurostat, the European Commission's statistics body. The report puts the UK in fifth place in terms of total positive asylum applications for 2014, behind Germany (47,555 positive applications), Sweden (33,025), France (20,640) and Italy (20,630).
However, these are total figures - they do not take into account relative country size.
When we adjusted the figures to take into account the relative sizes of countries (according to population), the United Kingdom is 14th of countries accepting the most asylum applications. The UK is behind Bulgaria, Finland and Luxembourg for the number of asylum seekers it accepts, when compared to its own population
Going from 2014 population figures and asylum application numbers, the UK accepted around 218 asylum seekers per 1 million population. Sweden outstrips all other EU member states, accepting around 3,424 asylum seekers per 1m population. Malta, the small island sitting amid the refugee route accepted the second highest proportion of refugees, 3,044 per million.
Anna Musgrave, of the Refugee Council, said: “The British Government appears oblivious to the fact that the world is in the grip of the greatest refugee crisis in recent memory. “The Home Secretary’s sweeping judgement that people arriving on Europe’s shores from some of the world’s biggest refugee producing countries are economic migrants is utterly startling. The choice is simple. Will we turn our back on the world’s refugees, or will we live up to our proud tradition of offering some of the most vulnerable people in the world safety in Britain?”