New stats released on Thursday revealed France was placed third in Europe's rankings when it came to the number of asylum seekers it granted protection to in 2013.
In 2013, France gave permission to 16,155 of the EU’s 135,700 asylum seekers, which amounted to 11.9 percent of all applications, according to a new report by the EU data agency Eurostat, putting it behind Sweden and then Germany in the rankings.
In 2013 France granted permission to more asylum seekers than the UK, where 13,400 were given the right to stay. In Spain only 555 asylum seekers were granted permission (see below for full table).
Of the 16,000 allowed to settle in France the largest group came from Russia – around 12 percent, followed by Sri Lankans and nationals from the Democratic Republic of Congo who accounted for nine percent of asylum seekers each.
The stats follow an earlier study released by Eurostat in March, in which France was found to have rejected 50,985 first instance decisions out of a total of 61,455 asylum cases in 2013.
Those figures provoked concern among some immigrants' rights groups in France.
“Yes it’s a problem. We are worried by why it is so low compared to other European countries,” said Matthieu Tardis , the head of the general secretariat of France Terre D’Asile a leading non-profit organization which provides “legal and social services” to asylum seekers and refugees in France.
Tardis told The Local there were various reasons why France accepts fewer asylum seekers on average than other countries, one of which is regularly put forward by the government.
“The reason always given by the Ministry of Interior is that France does not receive applications from what they deem ‘good’ countries, for example countries ravaged by war like Syria or Afghanistan,” he said.
In Thursday's figures from Eurostat, which analyzed both first instance and final decisions on asylum applications, Sweden, with its relatively small population of 9.5 million, was recorded as taking in the largest number of asylum seekers – 19.5 percent.
Germany took in the second-highest number of asylum seekers with 26,080.
Altogether, the five member states of France, Sweden, Germany, Italy and the UK took in more than 70 percent of those granted protection status in the EU last year.
The total number of Europe's asylum seekers shot up from 116,200 in 2012 to 135,000 last year.
Despite the rise in immigration, the author of a new OECD report on immigration in Europe said in May that it was no longer even a significant phenomenon in France, especially when compared with other OECD countries.
“Contrary to what most people believe migration to France is fairly low,” Jean-Christophe Dumont, from the OECD’s International Migration Division told The Local. “Immigrants coming to France in 2012 represented only 0.4 percent of the population, which is much lower than the OECD average of around 0.8 percent.
The report came as the far-right former National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen suggested that the Ebola virus could solve the immigration problem in France.