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Lineker claim on UK taking ‘far fewer refugees’ than Europe supported by data

Gary Lineker’s claim that the UK takes “far fewer refugees” than other European countries is to some extent supported by Parliament figures on asylum seekers.

The 62-year-old Match Of The Day host has come under fire from Government ministers over comments he made on Twitter about the new asylum policy.

Contesting a claim in a Home Office video that the UK was being “overwhelmed” by immigration, Lineker said: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.”

In response to this, immigration minister Robert Jenrick criticised the ex-England striker as being “so far out of step with the British public”.

However, data from the House of Commons (HoC) library shows that the UK ranks 16th when compared with the 27 EU countries for the number of asylum claims granted in 2021 after accounting for population sizes.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

This data covers asylum seekers only, which the HoC describes as “a subset of migrants” who have left their home country “from fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, social group or political opinion”.

It shows that the UK approved the applications of 11,853 asylum seekers in 2021 – the equivalent of two people per 10,000 of the overall population.

This compares with Austria which welcomed 14 asylum seekers per 10,000, or 12,110 people.

Meanwhile, Germany granted 59,850 applications – seven per 10,000, France granted 33,880 applications – five per 10,000 people – and Spain accepted 20,400 – four per 10,000.

The Republic of Ireland also proportionally took in more asylum seekers than the UK, at 1,455, or three per 10,000.

Cyprus welcomed proportionally the largest number of asylum seekers at 26 per 10,000 of its population – or 2,295 people.

MEDIA Lineker Explainer
(PA Graphics)

The figures were compiled by the House of Commons Library using data published by Eurostat and the Home Office.

The totals do not include all refugees welcomed to the UK, as some will have arrived under separate resettlement schemes, such as those for people fleeing Afghanistan.

Some of these refugees are admitted via the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), whose figures show the UK took 1,194 people via this route in 2022.

The UK ranked ninth globally for UNHCR resettlement last year, with the US at the top of the table (21,915 refugees) followed by Canada (11,041) and Germany (4,787).

A Home Office spokesperson said the UK is among the top European countries for “resettlement”, second only to Sweden.

They added: “The UK has a proud history of providing protection for those who genuinely need it through our safe and legal routes.

“Since 2015, we have offered a place to almost half a million men, women and children seeking safety – including those from Hong Kong, Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine, as well as family members of refugees.”

Lineker’s tweet also described the new asylum policy as “immeasurably cruel” and “directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.

The BBC said it would speak to Lineker about his comments, which sparked criticism from Government ministers.