THE UK has been widely criticised for its slow response to war in Ukraine by refusing to waive visa requirements for refugees and being slower to react on bringing in sanctions.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and other Holyrood party leaders – except for Douglas Ross – wrote to the Prime Minister urging the UK to drop visa requirements for those fleeing the conflict. The UN have estimated 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country. 

But how does the UK's response compare to Europe and the rest of the world?

The National analysed data from the Home Office, UNHCR and Open Sanctions to give a fuller picture of the situation.

We asked the Home Office for the latest up-to-date figures on the number of visas granted for Ukrainian refugees but were told they would “not be providing a running commentary”, so we have used the most recent figures available from March 9.

READ MORE: The Moray firm hoping its tartan will raise cash for Ukraine - and be worn by Zelenskyy

How many asylum claims has the UK granted over the past five years?

As shown in the above graph, the number of asylum applications refused by the UK outweighs the number granted. Numerous Scottish politicians, including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, have criticised the Home Office’s “hostile environment” towards asylum seekers and refugees.

How many refugees have been granted access to the UK through various resettlement schemes in the past five years?

The UK Government runs a number of resettlement schemes, and recently replaced the Vulnerable Person and Vulnerable Children schemes with the UK resettlement scheme. These schemes were part of the response to the Syrian refugee crisis, which saw around 20,000 people brought to the UK.

The new scheme applies to those who have been assessed by the UNHCR and fall into numerous categories including women and girls at risk, family reunification and legal or physical protection needs. The mandate scheme is for refugees who have a close family member in the UK who is willing to accommodate them.

The graphs above show the number of refugees allowed into the UK dropping by each year, at its lowest during the peak of the pandemic when restrictions on travel were in place at various points throughout the year.

READ MORE: Scottish Government appoints minister for Ukrainian refugees to head up response

How does the UK’s response compare to mainland Europe?

The UN confirmed on March 11 that the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine reached a staggering 2,504,893. In the above graph we have used data available from the UNHRC, based on estimates from official sources based at border crossing points, which shows where the majority of refugees have fled to – most on the immediate border with Ukraine itself.

The National asked the Home Office for the latest number of visas granted to refugees but the department refused to give an update, adding only that one will come “in due course”.

The latest figures available from the UK government on March 9 stated that 957 visas had been granted. On the same day Grant Shapps told ITV news that there were 22,000 applications made to the Home Office so far. Meanwhile, Poland has taken in over 1.5 million people fleeing from the conflict.

How slow were the UK to bring in sanctions?

On March 11, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced sanctions on 386 members of the Duma – the lower house of the Russian parliament – banning them from travelling to the UK and freezing any assets they have in the country.

However, before that, the UK had only brought in 35 sanctions which were being announced a few at a time.

As you can see from the line graph above, the European Union and China were much quicker in bringing in a big number of sanctions. Since February 22, the UK has brought in 421 sanctions, the US 233, the EU 473 and China 529.