Europe’s refugee acceptance rates

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Europe’s migrant acceptance rates

NOT since the second world war has Europe faced refugee flows of such complexity and scale as this summer’s migrant crisis. The protests reported on September 1st involving hundreds of migrants at a railway station in Budapest—after Hungarian police barred their ongoing travel into Europe—were just the latest in a series of recent flashpoints from Calais to the Macedonian border.

Against this backdrop, much has been made of the comparative acceptance rates of asylum applicants by different European Union member states. Speaking in Berlin on Monday, Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, called for a unified European migration policy, with refugees “fairly” distributed among EU member states. (She also noted that those migrants without a right to stay in Europe should be returned home.) Germany’s interior minister has announced the country expects to receive 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers this year, four times as many as in 2014.

But each potential host nation’s circumstances are of course different—in terms of politics, economics, demographics etc.—and judging the number of accepted applicants at face value may not be the fair assessment Mrs Merkel alludes to. A more balanced evaluation can be made by adjusting the number of accepted applications to the population size of each country expected to accommodate new arrivals. As a large country with a population of 80m, Germany tops the list of acceptances in absolute terms, but when taken as a proportion of existing citizens it drops to tenth place (granting asylum to just 50.2 per 100,000). Britain too appears less generous when viewed in this manner. Sweden however, a relatively small nation of around 10m, is highly accommodating by both measures: it comes second in positive decisions overall, and top as proportion of population (taking 317.8 per 100,000). Hungary conversely—with a population size to match—performs poorly in both rankings.

Regardless of how the data are perceived, the sheer scale of the problem shows no signs of abating any time soon. Almost 50,000 asylum-seekers reached Greece in July alone, and some 4m Syrians had fled their homeland since the conflict began there to 2014. Meanwhile, the EU’s entire 2014 asylum influx accounted for just 0.03% of its population as a whole.

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