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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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.”