European Union Asylum Requests Dipped in 2017

The European Union’s asylum office says the number of people applying for international protection in Europe has plunged but remains higher than before 2015, when more than one million migrants entered, many fleeing the war in Syria.

European Asylum Support Office said in an annual report Monday that 728,470 application requests were made for international protection in 2017, compared to almost 1.3 million applications the previous year. It says around 30% of the applicants come from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, CBC reported.

EASO says there is a still a backlog: more than 950,000 applications were still awaiting a final decision at the end of last year, almost half of them in Germany.

Over 460,000 people applied for asylum in Europe in 2013, with the uptick beginning in 2014 with 660,000 requests.

Germany has seen well over a million new arrivals since 2014, but Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing pressure over her administration’s liberal approach to the issue, even from her Christian Democratic Union’s main coalition partner.

Merkel said Monday that she will hold talks with other European countries on migration issues and report back to her party on July 1.

  Germans in Disagreement  

Merkel stressed Monday that she does not want to see Germany unilaterally turn back migrants at its borders, as Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has been advocating.

Seehofer’s Christian Social Union party had raised the prospect of the minister taking such action in defiance of Merkel, and that has escalated the issue into a threat to her government.

Merkel said she will hold talks at and around the June 28-29 EU summit in Brussels and report back to her own party. She said it will then have to consider what happens next.

“We wish the chancellor success in this,” said Seehofer. “But we stand by our position that, if this does not succeed, turning people back immediately at the border must be possible.”

The migrant issue was again an international concern last week when the rescue ship Aquarius was denied entry from the Mediterranean by Italy and Malta.

Spain’s new center-left government helped end a weeklong ordeal for 630 people rescued from the Mediterranean, and they have granted the migrants 45-day stays to sort out their legal status.

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo told radio Cadena Ser on Monday that nearly half of the 630 migrants who arrived at Valencia on Sunday are requesting to be granted asylum in France.

She called the agreement with France “an example of cooperation” within the European Union.

In addition to the Mediterranean crossings that have seen Italy call on Libya and other EU nations to help stem the flow, on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, migrants have increasingly turned to Bosnia in order to avoid more heavily guarded routes through the Balkans.

The international Red Cross said Monday that the number of people migrating through the Balkans is on the rise and they are in dire need of basic humanitarian support.

The organization said Monday that more than 5,600 migrants entering Europe through Greece have reached Bosnia and Herzegovina this year, compared to only 754 in all of 2017.

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