Monday

30th Nov 2020

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"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.

EU migration system relies on despots, Schäuble says

German parliament president Wolfgang Schäuble outlined a vision on migration that included possibly sending people to "facilities outside Europe" while at the same time acknowledging that the EU is reliant on "dubious powers and regimes".

Greek operation on Turkish border to keep out migrants

The Greek ministry of foreign affairs, in a 25-page letter to the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, says its border operations are designed so that approaching potential asylum seekers "retreat and flee to the interior of the Turkish territory".

EU demands answers on Croat border attacks against migrants

EU commissioner Ylva Johansson wants to send her officials to Croatia sometime this month to make sure authorities there are complying with fundamental rights following numerous allegations of violence against migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross into the country.

EU watchdog launches probe on Croat border violence

The European Ombudsman is launching a case into the lack of proper oversight by the European Commission when it comes to how fundamental rights of migrants and refugees are allegedly being violated by Croat border police.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. EU taxpayers in the dark on US corona-drug deal
  2. EU debates first names to go on human rights blacklist
  3. Lithuania bids to host EU cyber-centre
  4. Amnesty exposes Amazon staff conditions on 'Black Friday'
  5. Unblocking Brexit and budget in focus This WEEK
  6. 25 years on: what next for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation?
  7. Erdoğan jails hundreds for life, as EU weighs relations
  8. Italian energy giant director advising EU foreign policy chief

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us