Resettlement figures don’t give us the full picture on refugee numbers

30 November 2021
What was claimed

Since 2015, the UK has resettled more refugees than any other country in Europe.

Our verdict

This is true, but “resettlement” only applies to a small percentage of the number of refugees a country might accept. Other countries in Europe have accepted far more people for protection as a whole than the UK.

Since 2015 I think… the UK through the refugee programmes, [has] resettled over 25,000 people—more than any other country in Europe.

A clip of health secretary Sajid Javid telling Sky News that the UK has resettled more refugees than any other country in Europe since 2015 has gone viral on Twitter. 

We have been asked by readers to check this claim, with many people on social media saying that other countries such as Germany have accepted far more asylum seekers over the same period of time. 

What Mr Javid said was correct, but “resettlement” only applies to a small percentage of the number of refugees a country might accept. It’s also correct that other countries in Europe have accepted far more people for protection as a whole than the UK.

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The UK has accepted more refugees than any other European country via resettlement schemes 

Mr Javid’s claim about resettlement is technically correct, but “resettled” in this context only refers to a small number of refugees who have been granted protection through a specific government scheme.  

Statistics collated by the EU show that the UK resettled more people than any other country in Europe between 2015 and 2019—a total of 24,670. 

The Eurostat figures do not contain the UK’s resettlement statistics for 2020 due to Brexit, but Home Office figures (which differs slightly to the EU data) show that in the year ending December 2020, the UK resettled 823 people. 

Resettlement programmes were paused during the second and third quarters of 2020 due to Covid-19, and the most recent figures show that the UK had resettled 1,171 people in the year ending September 2021. 

This doesn’t give us a full picture of the number of refugees accepted into each country 

Because the term “resettled” has a very specific meaning in the context of the asylum process, the number shared by Mr Javid does not give us a clear idea of how many asylum seekers the UK has accepted in total. 

Resettled” only refers to refugees who have been resettled in a specific country through an official resettlement scheme. The majority of people granted protection after entering the EU and the UK are asylum seekers, which means they have not been pre-approved for resettlement through an official scheme but applied for asylum once they reached their destination. 

There are three main resettlement schemes in place in the UK: the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS), Community Sponsorship Scheme, and the Mandate Resettlement Scheme. In August, it was also announced that the UK would offer protection to up to 20,000 refugees through the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, though this has not yet opened.

In the year ending September 2021 the UK offered protection to 13,210 people (in the form of asylum, humanitarian protection, alternative forms of leave and resettlement). Of these 9% were people who had been offered protection through resettlement. 

A Home Office spokesperson told Full Fact: “Since 2015, we have resettled more than 25,000 refugees through safe and legal routes direct from regions of conflict and instability - more than any other European country. We have recently committed to welcoming 5,000 people in the first year of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme – and up to 20,000 in coming years.”

Other European countries have accepted more refugees and asylum seekers in total than the UK 

As we have recently written, the UK issued 19,049 “first instance” decisions on asylum cases in 2020, granting a positive outcome to 9,072 of these.

This is far fewer than a number of countries in the EU, with Germany granting protection status to 98,000 people in 2020, followed by Spain (51,200) and Greece (35,800). 

It should be noted, however, that these numbers aren’t perfectly comparable. The UK data shows the outcomes of initial decisions only, whereas the EU figures include initial decisions and decisions made after appeal. 

The easiest way to compare the number of asylum decisions between European countries over the course of five years is to look at the number of positive first-instance decisions on asylum applications from 2015 to 2019, before Brexit.

Germany accepted by far the highest number of asylum applications in the first instance in the EU, with 982,695 positive decisions between 2015 and 2019. In comparison, the UK made 57,560 positive decisions over the same period of time. 

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