part A: A common Policy for Asylum
Today the EU has put forward plans for sharing asylum throughout Europe. This is a review of the Dublin convention of 1990, Eurodac and the Dublin regulation of 2003. Since 2009, there has been a uniform procedure throughout the EU for dealing with asylum requests. This grandly announced that it was having the last word on asylum policy- “les dernières briques de la protection internationale sont posées”, but clearly not! In practice, the 2009 directive means dealing with integration difficulties, clarifying the criteria for accepting an applicant (“membership of a social group” for instance, including gender) and establishing the rights to health-care and housing that are granted both to successful applicants and to those whose asylum status is not quite established but who have leave to remain in the host country.
The biggest issue specifically addressed on paper in 2009 was to ease the burden to the host state, but I am not sure that such has actually been achieved. Greece, for instance, continues to struggle, as in the news daily, we see the struggles of the Italian islands. The statistics, however, hide the fact that there is a big difference between the numbers of those granted asylum and those in the country requesting asylum. In Greece, for example, 625 people were granted asylum in 2012 in contrast to 22,165 given asylum in Germany. But to get a better picture, just note that in Lesbos in just a few days in 2012, 4409 people attempted to enter the territory. Of those, 2,600 were arrested in Turkey. Until 2012, 90% of immigrants entered europe through Greece. Thanos Maroukis estimated in 2012, that 390,000 people entered Greece. Of these, 625 were granted asylum. It puts the problem into perspective and it has only got worse since then.
Because of the ambiguity of the language, therefore, I am not really sure how, in practice, the new proposals will happen, though I have listened to what debate was available. Many asylum seekers find their appeals rejected. Some are genuinely bogus and some are unable to provide sufficient proof to make their case. Some simply have bad advice. At what point in the process, will they be dispersed? There is what the newspapers call a “surge of migration” across the mediterranean, which places even more pressure on Italy and Greece, two of the weaker Nations, to provide care under the original Asylum directives that a migrant should be processed in the first country he or she reaches in Europe. For all their belly-aching about migration, this means that very few migrants should genuinely have been treated by the UK because, logically, anyone making it to the UK must have passed through another member state in the process. A lack of proper documentation makes it harder to deport people because it is unclear where they first made land, though in 2008, the UNHCR asked the EU not to return Iraqi asylum seekers to Greece. Clearly, this Dublin regulation’s approach to “readmission” is unfair both to the migrants and to countries like Greece. Any new plans must be better.
above frans timmmermans, below federica mogherini
The new plan is that a “mass influx” will trigger an emergency distribution system that will spread the load around the rest of Europe on a quota system basis. Again, it is not at all clear whether this will be administered by the country experiencing the “mass influx” and whether the quota distribution is of applicants on processed refugees. The new Government wants to help police the mediterranean and protect those caught up in trafficking, but it does not want to be part of the quota system.
Scotland welcomes Refugees
Humza Yousaf, however says very clearly that Scotland would welcome its share of a quota.
Theresa May & Opt Out
Theresa May however says, “We must — and will — resist calls for the mandatory relocation or resettlement of migrants across Europe.” Britain is not going to veto the proposal: it can’t. It is simply using its opt-out of something that is subject to a majority vote and likely to pass. Angela Merkel sounds more promising and she has already welcomed about 1/3 of all those seeking asylum, a total of 626,000 asylum applicants over 2014: “We and our European partners are fundamentally convinced that we must act urgently with regard to the dramatic refugee developments in the Mediterranean.” However, if the new proposals go ahead, she will be inevitably taking less asylum seekers and it is likely if the new proposals overturn Dublin 3, that Britain will no longer be able to send people back to their country of first entry. The fall out from this is that, ironically, the UK may end up accepting more immigrants than before and indeed offering greater help. Today, in fact the Royal Navy rescued 400 migrants.
Part B- refugees
There is a second part to this proposal which is a resettlement of refugees from camps outside the EU. This presumably includes people from countries like Turkey which has taken over 1.6 million Syrian refugees since the outbreak of the syrian crisis in 2011 and spent over £3 billion granting free healthcare to Syrian refugees. Some of these are in 22 government-run camps near the border but many are welcomed into the towns and cities. I remember getting my hair cut a few years’ ago in Istanbul and meeting a young lad who was sweeping the floor and was a Syrian refugee. He must have been about 12. There is a problem. Turkey does not give the Syrians official status as refugees, and instead calls them “guests”. This is both helpful in removing any stigma but it also means that there is less security and local people might begin to resent unregistered business ventures and competition. The impression given by recent Amnesty reports is that Turkey is reaching saturation-point and AFAD calls out for help. Meanwhile there are calls on the Turkish government to regularize Syrian workers so that they can pay proper tax.
Meanwhile, today (may 13th) is the anniversary of the birth of Vesta Tilly, the lady who first made famous the character of Burlington Bertie.