Friday

23rd Jun 2017

Timmermans blunders on migrant figures

  • The vast majority of people arriving in the EU are fleeing conflict and war. (Photo: UNHCR/O.Laban-Mattei)

Fewer Syrians may be arriving in the EU compared to last year but a surge in Iraqis fleeing persecution casts doubt on recent statements by EU commission vice-president Frans Timmermans.

Timmermans was quoted in Dutch media as saying some 60 percent of the arrivals in December come from countries where there is no conflict.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"More than half of the people now arriving to Europe come from countries where you can assume they have no reason to apply for refugee status. More than half, 60 percent", Timmermans told Dutch media broadcaster NOS.

However, recent figures provided by both the EU's border agency, Frontex, and the UN agency for refugees (UNHCR) paint a much more nuanced picture.

Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri told this website on Wednesday (28 January) that "the trend is that there are fewer Syrian nationals".

But the Warsaw-based agency notes that while the number of Syrians may have declined, the share of Iraqi monthly arrivals in Greece "increased over the last quarter to 25 percent in December, more than double the 11 percent in October and 12 percent in November".

It also states that the average share of Afghans is between one quarter and one third of the total number of detected migrants at the border.

The UNHCR noted a similar trend.

Both the UNHCR and Frontex say Syrians accounted for around 39 percent of all arrivals in Greece in December.

Iraqis and Afghans, it says, each represent around 24 percent of the mix, or just under 50 percent together.

In other words, almost 90 percent the people who arrived by sea in the EU in December came from countries gripped by war or emerged from a wider regional conflict.

Fewer Syrians, more Iraqis

The UN agency says 42,000 Syrians arrived in Greece in December, down from 65,000 in November.

However, it also found that many more Iraqis arrived in December (27,000) than in November (18,365).

Afghans have a high chance of getting asylum in the EU while Iraqis and Syrians have more than a 75 percent chance.

Leggeri said they arrived at their data by authenticating the individual backgrounds of the nationals.

Some may claim to be Syrian but are not, he said.

If the individual is not Syrian then Frontex assumes the person is an irregular migrant, unless a background check has been performed.

"When a person is not Syrian but, for instance, from Morocco, then we assume unless there is [a reason from their] individual background, that this person is not in need of protection," he said.

Frontex says 39 percent of all migrants arriving in Greece in December declared they were from Syria. In November, it was 43 percent, compared to 51 percent in October.

'Lack of capacity'

On Tuesday, the EU Commission announced Greece had also "seriously neglected" its obligations to secure its external borders.

The assessment followed spot checks by Frontex agents in early November for gaps in the Greek border.

Authorities in Greece maintain that improvements have since been made in terms of registering and fingerprinting new arrivals since the November review.

Over 42,000 arrived on the Greek islands since the start of the year.

Leggeri said the agency was providing the Greeks with support to increase registration rates but noted there was still a "lack of capacity" and highlighted outstanding issues with Eurodac, the asylum fingerprint system.

"Frontex agency has to provide the operational solidarity bearing in the mind that in the current system member states are responsible for the management of the external border," he said.

Most asylum seekers ineligible, EU commissioner says

EU commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, citing an unpublished report by the EU border agency Frontex, says most people coming to EU are not from countries which qualify them for asylum.

EU police issue warning on lost child refugees

EU police forces say that the 10,000 child refugees, who vanished off the grid after coming to Europe, are at risk of sexual and labour exploitation by criminal gangs.

Lack of eligible candidates dogs EU relocation scheme

Member states could fail to meet their refugee quotas even if they wanted to, as strict eligibility rules mean there are few candidates left in Greece and Italy. Sweden is already wondering if it will meet its pledge.

Security and defence to top EU summit

Pressure is mounting for social media platforms to remove any online content deemed to incite terrorism. Draft conclusions, seen by EUobserver, have made the issue a top priority in leaders' talks next week.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal
  2. US issues warrant for VW managers, German media say
  3. EU extends sanctions against Russia
  4. Merkel denies Franco-German deal on EU agencies
  5. Dutch PM: Turkey is upholding migration deal
  6. Britain to outline rights of UK-based EU citizens
  7. Tusk can 'imagine' the UK still remaining in EU
  8. Norway offers more blocks for Arctic oil exploration

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  2. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  3. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  4. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  5. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  6. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  7. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  8. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  11. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move
  12. European Social Services ConferenceDriving innovation in the social sector – 26-28 June

Latest News

  1. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  2. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  3. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit
  4. EU pressures firms to tackle online terrorism
  5. Lack of eligible candidates dogs EU relocation scheme
  6. Border management going virtual
  7. Tusk hints UK could stay in EU, if it wanted
  8. Merkel, Orban and the not quite closed Balkan route