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Asylum applications spike in Europe

12 July 20230 comments

Asylum applications in the European Union hit almost a million in 2022, the highest level in six years, according to a new report from the European Union Agency for Asylum.

Among the 996,000 applicants seeking protection in Europe are large groups of people from Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, Venezuela and Colombia.

Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war in their homeland were counted separately. About four million of them are living in the EU with a special temporary protection status.

Taken together, the numbers were putting ‘acute pressure on already strained reception places in many countries’, the EUAA said.

Several of the EU’s 27 member countries, among them Italy, Poland and Sweden, are taking increasingly hard-line stances against irregular migration.

That trend could deepen as the bloc’s economic growth stalls on the back of hiked interest rates, imposed in a bid to address persistently high inflation.

The EU saw a peak in irregular migration in 2015 and 2016, when 2.5 million asylum seekers arrived, many of them Syrians escaping the conflict in their country.

The EUAA’s data covers the EU’s 27 countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The four are members of the borderless Schengen area alongside most of the EU states.

The report was published at a time when the EU is negotiating a reform of its asylum and migration rules.

The overhaul seeks to share the burden of hosting asylum seekers across all member states, accelerate vetting of asylum demands at the EU’s external border to weed out ones least likely to have viable grounds, and to speed up the return of denied asylum seekers to their country of origin or transit.

According to the EUAA, the five principal EU countries receiving asylum applications were Germany, France, Spain, Austria and Italy.

Of all the applications, 39 per cent received a positive response — the highest recognition rate since 2017.

All but a fraction of those lodged by Syrians, Ukrainians and Eritreans succeeded. Across the bloc, 71 per cent of applications were lodged by men.

European Union nations recently reached a landmark agreement that would see member countries either accept a share of newly arrived asylum-seekers or pay into a fund to support migrants.

The EU’s 27 member states agreed on an initial plan to enact tougher asylum and migration policies across the bloc, according to a recent announcement.

Sweden, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said the deal is a “good balance” of responsibility towards those seeking asylum and solidarity in the EU.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser called the agreement a “historic success” for the EU.

Poland and Hungary voted against the proposals, while Bulgaria, Malta, Lithuania and Slovakia abstained.

In a statement, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said: “The compromise is not an easy one at all. If we could have decided the reform as a federal government on our own, it would have looked differently.”

But she said that if Germany had not made concessions the attempt to share asylum-seekers across the bloc would have failed.

“If Germany had voted against the compromise today, together with Hungary and Poland, among others, a common European asylum policy based on solidarity would be dead for years,” she said.

“Instead, all those who want to raise national walls in Europe again would have a free pass.”