Boris Johnson claimed during Prime Minister’s Questions that the UK has “taken more vulnerable people fleeing theatres of conflict since 2015 than any other country in Europe”.
This claim refers only to people who have been resettled in the UK through government resettlement schemes, and ignores the hundreds of thousands of people who have been granted asylum after arriving in another country. Using this measure, some other European countries have granted protection to far more people than the UK.
Downing Street confirmed that Mr Johnson’s claim is based on data collated by the European Union, which shows that between 2015 and 2019 the UK resettled more people than any country in the EU—a total of 24,670.
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 (the number of asylum seekers offered some protection in the first instance) from 2015 to 2019, before Brexit.
Germany made by far the highest number of positive decisions in the first instance in the EU, with 982,695 made between 2015 and 2019. In comparison, the UK made 57,560 positive decisions over the same period of time.
Home Office data shows 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 to 62,470 people in 2020, followed by Spain (51,055) and Greece (34,325). These figures do not include people who were granted asylum after an initial refusal.
We have drawn heavily on the analysis of Full Fact.
While Mr Johnson’s claim may have been technically correct, it is thoroughly misleading. The UK has taken a much smaller number of asylum seekers and refugees than EU countries. According to the Ministerial Code, “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” Boris Johnson was misleading parliament in defiance of the Ministerial Code.
We approached Mr Johnson’s office, the Cabinet Office and the No 10 Press Office to give him a chance to comment, but received no response.