Sunday

22nd Jul 2018

EU asylum claims drop, Germany registers most

  • Merkel's 13-year reign as chancellor is at stake ahead of the EU summit (Photo: European Union)

Germany last year registered almost twice as many asylum applications as any other EU state, followed by Italy and France.

A report out Monday (18 June) by the Malta-based European Asylum Support Agency (Easo) says some 222,560 applications were lodged in Germany in 2017, followed by Italy at 128,850 and France with just over 100,000.

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The German figure represents a 70 percent decrease when compared to 2016 after some one million had entered the country.

The total number of asylum applications throughout all of the EU, plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, last year, was 728,470, or some 44 percent less when compared to 2016.

Despite the drops, the figures underscore a political dilemma over asylum in Germany and elsewhere as chancellor Angela Merkel attempts to cobble together support for her European approach to migration ahead of an EU summit later this month.

The chancellor over the weekend managed to temporarily circumvent a widening rift with her strained long-time Christian Social Union (CSU) Bavarian ally headed by Horst Seehofer, who is also interior minister.

Seehofer wants to turn back refugees at the German border in a move that appears to pander to a conservative base ahead of October elections.

The 'Dublin regulation', which is currently under stalled reforms, allows EU states to return people to the state where they first entered or have applications pending.

Authorities, under normal circumstances, would have up to four weeks to verify their claims, which includes checking their fingerprints in a database known as Eurodac and then looking to see if they have any family connections. Unaccompanied minors have the right to enter.

Merkel wants a European approach over fears bilateral moves could trigger other similar deals, possibly leading to more internal border controls and checks.

The two have since agreed to hold off any decision on such plans until after the EU summit on 28 and 29 June.

A weakened Merkel in the meantime is scrambling to reach deals with Italy and France ahead of the EU summit.

On Monday, she is meeting with Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte in Berlin. On Tuesday, she will meet French president Emmanuel Macron during a joint cabinet meeting at a government retreat outside Berlin.

Italy and France had also been at loggerheads last week over the docking of the migrant rescue boat Aquarius, turned away from Italian ports and then sent to disembark its 630 passengers in Spain.

But the two sides appear to have made some amends following a meeting on Friday between Macron and Conte. Macron and Conte proposed setting up European asylum processing centres in African nations.

"We haven't heard of any country in Asia, or non-Europe or Africa, that would be willing," an EU official told reporters on Friday, however.

The EU is running a project in Niger where people are dispatched to from Libya as part of a resettlement scheme. Niger had threatened to shut it down earlier this year because so few were then sent onto EU states.

EU states set to back some asylum reform laws

Efforts to reform 'Dublin', a regulation that determines who is responsible for asylum applications, remain mired in controversy. But other less contentious reforms that make up EU asylum laws have already reached provisional agreements.

EU summit set to outsource asylum

Draft conclusions of the EU summit seen by this website suggest setting up "regional disembarkation platforms", possibly in countries near Libya, to separate asylum seekers and economic migrants.

Opinion

EU must create safe, legal pathways to Europe

As the rapporteur for the European Parliament on an EU regulation on resettlement, my colleagues and I have outlined an effective plan based on solidarity and humanitarian principles.

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