Europe agrees a new asylum regime
One million people sought protection
One million people sought asylum in Europe:
Germany and France received most
August 2023: In 2022, almost one million people from the world’s war-torn and impoverished regions applied for asylum in the European Union (EU). The largest groups of people seeking protection in Europe were from Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, Venezuela and Colombia. Together with the four million war refugees from Ukraine, who enjoy temporary protection status, five million refugees were cared for in EU countries as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland In its annual report, the EU Asylum Agency (EUAA) wrote that taken together, the numbers were putting acute pressure on already strained reception places in many countries. Several of the EU's 27 member countries, among them Italy, Poland and Sweden, are taking increasingly hardline stances against irregular migration. That trend could deepen if individual countries or Europe as a whole move politically to the right. The European asylum record numbers of 2015 (1.4 million) and 2016 (1.3 million) were not reached overall. However, according to the EUAA, some EU countries recorded more applications than ever before, including Austria, France, Spain and Portugal. Of the nearly one million asylum applications, most were received in Germany (244,000) and France (156,000). Other countries were Spain (118,000), Austria (109,000) and Italy (84,000). Most applications were filed by people from Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, Venezuela and Colombia. Among the applicants were 42,000 unaccompanied children and minors - the highest number since 2016. Almost two-thirds of them are Afghans or Syrians. The EUAA's report covers the EU's 27 countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The latter four are members of the borderless Schengen area. 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, to accelerate vetting of asylum demands at the EU's external border to weed out applicants least likely to have viable grounds, and to speed up the return of denied asylum-seekers to their country of origin. BACK TO TOP
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Europe agrees a new asylum regime
June 2023: In June 2023, European Union (EU) countries voted in favour of a plan to streamline and toughen common asylum regulations. Under the reform plan, EU countries decided how asylum-seekers are processed at the border and relocated across Europe. The ministers, who met in Luxembourg, agreed that EU members would either accept an allocated share of asylum seekers or pay into a solidarity fund.
An agreement was in doubt until late in the day. Italy, Austria and the Netherlands thought the proposed plan was just not good enough, while Poland and Hungary opposed it outright and eventually voted against it.
During the negotiations, Germany argued strongly that families with children and unaccompanied minors would be exempt from new, tougher border procedures. But at the end, to prevent the negotiations from collapsing, the Berlin government accepted that families would be included in the new border regime.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (Social Democrat) called the agreement a historic success for the EU but added that for her Green Party coalition partners the compromise was not easy to accept.
"If Germany had voted against the compromise, together with Hungary and Poland, among others, a common European asylum policy based on solidarity would be dead for years. Instead, all those who had wanted to raise national walls in Europe again would have had a free pass."
Sweden, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency, also called the agreement historic. Earlier, the country’s immigration minister Maria Malmer Stenergard said: ”No member state can deal with the challenges of migration alone. Frontline countries need our solidarity. And all member states must be able to rely on the responsible adherence to the agreed rules.”
Germany’s Nancy Faeser expressed satisfaction despite needing to drop some negotiating positions. "We now have a migration policy based on solidarity and the protection of human rights.”
The newly agreed rules will, for the first time, enable asylum controls at Europe's external borders. People from so-called safe countries will not be allowed to enter the EU. For this purpose, there are to be asylum centres near the border - in other words, strictly secured areas or facilities. There, ideally within twelve weeks, the applicants would be examined to see whether they have a chance of being granted asylum. If not, they would be sent back immediately. ‘Safe’ countries include Serbia, Turkey, India, Tunisia and Albania.
Germany argued unsuccessfully that deportees who do not have a close connection to the 'safe' countries, for example through their families, should be processed as in the past. The German minister only succeeded in including safeguards for unaccompanied minors. They, together the majority of refugees, for example from Syria, Afghanistan or Sudan, will continue to have the right to a normal procedure, which is usually carried out in the member states at the EU's external borders.
Poland and Hungary rejected the EU asylum reforms. Warsaw argued that it is already hosting almost one million Ukrainian refugees, the second largest number in Europe, after Germany. In future, they are to pay a penalty of 22,000 euros for each migrant they do not take in. The money is to go into a solidarity fund from which migration projects will be financed. Whether Warsaw or Budapest will ever pay is very doubtful.
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