Europe and the Mediterranean: Data on immigration and asylum seekers updated on September 2015
Recently, the migrants disembarkation on European coasts have become a media phenomenon and a political issue for the Heads of State and Government and for the European public, creating, inevitably, divisions on the issue.
Most migrants come from conflict and war areas, especially from Syria, battered by nearly five years by a bloody civil war.
The motivation that brings these men, women children to travel to Europe is a survival instinct, while the total absence of life prospects in their lands and despair related to it pushes him to face an endless journey, full of obstacles and dangers, often fatal.
The goal of the Syrians, in particular, is the recognition by the European countries of the asylum right. It is a form of international protection given by a state on its territory. It is granted to a person who is unable to seek protection in his/her country of citizenship and/or residence, in particular for fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.
Recently Eurostat published data concerning the situation of asylum seekers in Europe.
The number of first time asylum applicants increased by 85 % in the second quarter of 2015 compared with the same quarter of the previous year and 15 % compared to the previous quarter of 2015. Overall, the number of persons seeking asylum from non-EU countries in the EU-28 during the second quarter of 2015 reached 213 200. This was 98 100 more than in the same quarter of 2014. Out of the 228 600 total asylum applicants (i.e. including repeat applicants), 213 200 (93 %) were first time applicants.
Asylum seekers come from many countries of the world: citizens of 141 countries sought asylum for the first time in the EU in the second quarter of 2015. Syrians, Afghanis and Albanians were the top 3 citizenships of asylum seekers, lodging around 44 000, 27 000 and 17 700 applications respectively.
Syrians (22 500 more applicants compared to the second quarter of 2014) and Afghanis (20 600 more) added most to the overall increase in first time asylum applicants in absolute terms, followed by Albanians and Iraqis (13 800 and 11 500 more applicants respectively).
Asylum applicants from Iraq (nearly 6 times more) recorded the most substantial relative increase in the EU in the second quarter of 2015 compared to the same quarter of 2014, followed by Kosovans (nearly 5 times more), Albanians and Afghanis (more than 4 times) and by applicants from Montenegro (more than 3 times).
Of the 44 000 Syrians who applied for the first time for asylum in the EU in the second quarter of 2015, more than three quarters were registered in four Member States: Germany (16 300), Hungary (8 400), Austria (5 300) and Sweden (3 900). Of the 27 000 Afghanis seeking asylum protection for the first time in the EU during the second quarter of 2015, half (13 600) applied in Hungary, while nearly 90% of the 17 700 Albanians applied in Germany (15 400). Syrians were the main citizenship of asylum seekers in ten EU Member States.
Asylum seekers in Europe want to arrive in a few numbers of Countries. The highest number of first time asylum applicants in the second quarter of 2015 was registered in Germany (80 900 applicants, or 38% of total applicants in the EU), Hungary (32 700, or 15%), Austria (17 400, or 8%), Italy, France and Sweden (respectively 14 900, 14 700 and 14 300, or 7% each). These six Member States, together, account for more than 80% of all first applicants in the EU-28.
Trends in number of asylum applicants vary from country to country in the second quarter of 2015. Germany (46 400 applicants more) continued to record increasing numbers of applicants, while Hungary (30 200 more) saw its number of asylum seekers jumping notably by more than 13 times compared to the same quarter of 2014.
Austria (13 100 more applicants, or 4 times more) was the country with the third largest absolute increase in the number of asylum seekers in the EU in the second quarter of 2015.
Decisions on asylum applications were made by the national authorities of EU Member States. During the second quarter of 2015 the number of first instance decisions was 117800. Among them, 46 % were positive (i.e. granting a type of protection status).
Germany, France, Italy and Sweden issued the most total first instance decisions in the second quarter of 2015 (46 100, 19 400, 13 800, 10 100 respectively).
Most decisions were issued to Syrians (25 500) and Kosovans (13 600), followed by Eritreans (5 700), Albanians (5 600), Iraqis (5 300), and Serbians (5 000).
Syrians have received by far the highest number of protection statuses in the EU, including protection based on national legislations (24 400 positive first instance decisions, or 96% rate of recognition), followed by Eritreans (4 800, or 84%), Iraqis (4 700, or 87%) and Afghanis (2 500, or 70%).
Of the 13 600 first instance decisions issued to Kosovans only 260 were positive (or 2% rate of recognition), while of the 5 600 and 5 000 issued to Albanians and Serbians only 240 and 55 were positive respectively (or 4% and 1% respectively).
The issue of immigration was also addressed by Caritas, which recently published a dossier in which it is stated that this year, in just one week between 10 and 16 August, 20 thousand migrants have landed in Greece, a quarter of all people landed in the country throughout 2014. In the first eight months, 150 thousand migrants have destroyed the meagre reception system present on the Greek islands, the main destination of migrants who arrive in this country.
In general, according to a Caritas statement, numbers are troubling ones provided by IOM (International Organization for Migration) on arrivals across the Mediterranean: in the first eight months of 2015, are 351 thousand migrants who have taken the sea route to try a different life (arrivals in the same period of 2014 were 219 thousand). Data as far as concerned victims are dramatic: 2,643 people have died since January. The IOM estimates that 235,000 migrants arrived in Greece and 115 thousand landed in Italy. More than 2,000 have arrived in Spain and a hundred in Malta. August was the second month of the year with the most deaths, 638, exceeded only by April when there were 1,265. The nationalities most common among migrants crossing the Mediterranean are Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Syria. Eritreans dominate among the arrivals in Italy and Syrians among those on the Greek islands. By the end of 2014 were 3,500 migrants dead or missing in the Mediterranean, according to data of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
More than half of all people who have crossed the Mediterranean in 2015 landed in Greece, a country with one-sixth of the Italian population. Nearly half of all asylum applications lodged in the European Union in the same period were made in Germany.
In Italy, in 2015, arrive a little more than 100 thousand migrants, one for every 600 inhabitants. In the same period, in Greece, there are 205 thousand arrived: that is one every 53 inhabitants. Greece is, therefore, Country which has borne the greatest weight of landings and with a large lead over Italy, which remains the second country. This year, in just one week between 10 and 16 August, 20 thousand migrants have landed in Greece, a quarter of all people landed in the country throughout 2014. In the first eight months, 150 thousand migrants have destroyed the skinny reception system present on the Greek islands, the main destination of migrants who arrive in this country.
Manage the landings and the reception is only a part of the problem of immigration. Most of the migrants do not want to stop in Greece or Italy, and continues his journey often with the complicity of local authorities.
In the dossier of Caritas is also a focus on Syrian exodus. The United Nations Office on Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) has declared that, on 17 million, 12 million Syrians are in need of aid, 7, 6 million are internally displaced, and 4, 1 million have fled outside the Country. For this mass of desperate the “strategic UN response plan” provides about $ 3 billion of which donor countries, however, have paid only a third. In addition to lacking funds, there is no shortage of means: UN convoys carrying food to populations in areas under siege – from villages to cities like Aleppo – are rare, this increases the emergency and pushes to flee.
Moreover, there is a difficult situation even in neighbouring countries. In Jordan, there are 630 thousand refugees equal to 9 percent of the population, and government has closed the borders for a year because he fears that the fields in Azraq and Zaatari become epicentre of feuds between rival groups Syrians. In Lebanon, where refugees are 1.2 million or 26 percent of the population, it was introduced in January a visa regime that seriously hampers arrivals. This transformed Turkey in the only escape route left by the war. Ankara is home to 1.8 million refugees, of whom 10 per cent in camps in the south, and has already spent $ 6 billion from the international community getting just $ 300 million.
Beirut and Amman are even more in trouble. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, admits: “We promised to Jordan and Lebanon 7 billion Euros, but we gave them less than three.”
The conclusion of Paulo Pinheiro, head of the UN commission of inquiry on Syria is: “It is the collapse of attempts to protect and assist refugees to cause the mass exodus to Europe” (but also to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Syria).
This dramatic situation is unprecedented, even in the troubled history of the Middle East. Number of refugees in the neighbours countries, should be related to the population of residents; Syrian refugees in Lebanon are a quarter of the population and in Jordan, a largely desert country, they are more than one-tenth of the residents. Syrian refugees decide to escape even in Iraq, which is a land of violence since 2003.
Caritas of these countries were activated immediately with a range of services beyond the emergency, including legal assistance, psychological help, and children solarisation. In Jordan and Lebanon the national Caritas are the largest private facility for assistance to refugees, thanks to a network of volunteers (over 300 in Jordan) and a widespread presence throughout the country, particularly in Lebanon. The statistics are continuously updated, but at least 10-15% of refugees benefit from some help from Caritas in the region. Efforts and an admirable constancy are made possible not only by the institution, such as EU and UN, but also by the support of the worldwide network of Caritas. Finally Caritas give a special attention given to the end of refugees, mostly Christians, but also members of other religious minorities, who -for the first time in the Middle East- are victims of real religious persecution, and would be left to themselves as in Jordan. In Iraq, in the northern region of Kurdistan, these are more than 100,000 refugees, welcomed the small Christian communities of the region. Lastly, inside Syria itself, the national Caritas is present in six regions: in 2014 at least 60,000 people were assisted, especially the most vulnerable, such as children, the seriously ill and elderly.