C: D Storan

Varadkar is wrong: data shows we have taken more than our ‘fair share’ of refugees 

At the weekend, as controversy continues to grow about the crisis in accommodation caused by pretending Ireland can accommodate an unlimited number of refugees, an Tánaiste Leo Varadkar made what struck me as a peculiar statement. 

There were no plans to limit refugee numbers from Ukraine, Varadkar said, as that would not be permissible under EU law. That’s debatable, and growing public pressure may yet, I suspect, force the government’s hand as the summer ends and student accommodation becomes an additional complicating factor in the chaos.

But it was the second part of his statement that was really ridiculous – his assertion that Ireland may not have taken its fair share of refugees. This is not just absurd, it is not factually correct. In contrast to other European countries, as we will see, Ireland is taking far more people per capita than many larger countries with bigger economies.


Let’s take a look at the most recent data released by the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, which tells us that some 5.8 million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded across Europe. Countries bordering Ukraine, such as Poland, are most heavily impacted by the war.

The numbers fleeing are enormous – but what matters in terms of assessing whether Ireland is taking our “fair share” is how many Ukrainians we have recorded per capita or relating to our population. There is no point comparing 41,000 Ukrainian refugees coming to Ireland with 95,000 taken by the UK, when our populations are wildly different.

So using the data from the UNCHR against the population of each country under examination, it’s easy to calculate the number of Ukrainian refugees per 10,000 people for each country.

Thus far, Ireland has taken 83 Ukrainians per 10,000 people.

That number for the United Kingdom is 14 – so they have taken in 14 refugees from the Ukraine per 10,000 of the population.

France has also taken 14 Ukrainians per 10,000 people.

Italy’s per capita intake is 24 per 10,000, while Spain’s is 27.

So this small island has taken in almost six times per capita the number of Ukrainian refugees as Britain and France, both countries with significantly larger economies.

Ireland has also taken in far more per capita than Spain – and more than three times as many as Italy.

We’re also streets ahead of Norway – 38 refugees per 10,000 people – and of Slovenia which has taken 34 per 10,000 of its population. And we are well ahead even of Belgium and Romania – both 44 refugees per 10,000 of their populations, and even ahead of Denmark who at least chalk up 54 per ten thousand.

Poland is obviously bucking the trend, having welcomed 1.2 million refugees fleeing the war – or 323 per 10,000 people – but it is bordering Ukraine and has rightly called on the European Union to assist it with the enormous task it now faces to provide shelter and assistance. Germany has also taken more per capita than Ireland, but that country’s policy on migration and asylum seekers seems to continually traverse a spectrum between its population collapse concerns and growing resistance to a complete change in German culture.

Interestingly, Hungary has taken 27,000 Ukrainian refugees – or 27 per 10,000 of its population – despite also being on the Ukraine border, but it might feel that this number is a realistic limit in terms of what it can provide.

And they are most likely correct. Instead of being, not just pragmatic, but honest in regard to what Ireland can provide, we have the unedifying spectacle of our political leaders trying to outdo each other in empty virtue-signalling while ignoring the reality that we have now run out of accommodation for all the refugees those same leaders invited here on what was essentially a false promise.

That debate will continue, but on the numbers, Leo Varadkar is wrong: the data shows we have taken more than our “fair share” of Ukrainian refugees.


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