A sobering cold shower: Asylum Report 2024

3 min read

Looking more closely at the key issues that have a major impact not only on European politics, but also on the daily lives of European citizens, one can see that migration is at the top of the list.

In the EP election campaign, some parties – particularly those of the far-right – campaigned against migration and clearly expressed the intention of curbing it. Their campaign slogans, displayed on giant street posters, have been visible to any voter in recent months. In addition, European voters have their own experiences about migration as they have their own impressions about the migration situation and asylum seekers, regardless of which Member State they live in – former colonial, Eastern or Western, close to Ukraine or within arm’s reach of North Africa.

Based on the annual report by EU Asylum Agency (EUAA) published in June one can have the impression that the EU intends to solve all the problems of the entire planet by itself. There was a historical high of 114 million displaced people globally in October 2023 due to persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations, the document claims. Key hotspots for displacement included Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Latin American and Caribbean countries, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan and Ukraine. Between the end of 2022 and June 2023, 1.1 million new refugees were reported by UNHCR, representing a 3% increase for a total of 36.4 million refugees in mid-2023.

However, it is not enough that the EU wants to admit all those affected by humanitarian crises around the world, the authors of the report proudly report that, with climate change receiving growing attention, a potentially landmark climate migration policy was applied in 2023…

Reading the report, one gets the impression that the previous territorial patterns of migration in Europe, including asylum applications, have merged or simply disappeared. The document states that, in 2023, EU+ countries received over 1.1 million applications for international protection – which was the highest since the refugee crisis in 2015-2016 -, and, in addition to Germany, France, Span and Italy which topped the list in terms of the number of applications received, other countries like Cyprus, Austria, Greece, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Switzerland also faced significant pressure from the inflow of asylum applications. The authors of the paper also note that central European countries along the Balkan route of migration received increasing numbers of applications.

Some of the statistics presented in EUAA’s annual report, such as the fact that 385,000 irregular border crossings were detected at the EU’s external borders, representing an increase of 18% compared 2022, may come as an unpleasant cold shower to European citizens enjoying the warm days of June. The most popular migration routes, such as the Central Mediterranean route, the Western Balkan route, the Eastern and Western Mediterranean routes experienced a 26-55% increase in the number of detections except for the Western Balkan route, which ranked 2nd with 99,000 detections, which represents a slight decrease). The Western Africa routes are particularly noteworthy, with experiencing a remarkable increase of 161%!

In view of the these quite shocking data, it is particularly interesting that the report describes the Pact on Migration and Asylum as a major achievement of the EU. ’The political agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council in December 2023 on key legislative instruments of the Pact on Migration and Asylum represented a major breakthrough in the CEAS reform, paving the way for the successful completion of a process meant to equip Europe with a functional and modern migration and asylum architecture’, the document says. Another significant result was that the EU introduced initiatives to increase the effective management of external borders. Steps taken in this direction focused on calibrating a European Integrated Border Management.

All in all, the report is, indeed, something like a sobering cold shower, not only because of the shocking figures, but also because it painfully reveals all the mistakes in the EU’s management of migration, adding right now that the euphemistic term of ’management’ is itself a faulty way of describing the task of tackling migration. Let’s see some examples.

  • As a clear indication of the attitudes of Brussels to the issue, Executive Director of EUAA Nina Gregory states in the foreword to the report that ’Member States will need to continue to show perseverance in the coming years’.
  • According to the report, an area that generated much discussions in 2023, similar to previous years, was the dual challenge of border management and effective access to protection of those in need.
  • To promote protection-oriented solutions across the world, the EU continued its comprehensive and mutually-beneficial cooperation with third countries.

It is worth noting that the authors of the report have added a really interesting part to the chapter ’Children and people with special needs in the asylum procedure’ as they mention that considering the diverse sexual orientation of asylum seekers – they used an euphemistic abbreviation to describe it: ’applicants with diverse SOGIESC’-, in 2023, the EUAA updated its guide on LGBTIQ to assist practitioners. In addition, the report emphasises that national authorities made efforts to improve the responsiveness of asylum and reception systems to the needs of applicants with diverse SOGIESC.

With regard to the above approaches and ideas, the major problem is that they in no way take into account the EU’s core interests and traditional values, but focus on the need to improve the bloc’s standards of reception of migrants in a fair, humane, dignified, equal etc. manner, even if the European authorities are aware that, according to the report, an estimated 90% of people who cross the external EU borders irregularly do so with the assistance of smugglers…

Providing safe and legal pathways to protection to those in need, thus enabling the most vulnerable refugees to access Europe without resorting to perilous journeys or falling victims to smuggling networks, is a key priority for the EU. It is also a way to show solidarity with non-EU countries which host large numbers of refugees, the report says.

One thing is for sure: for as long as this attitude remains dominant in the EU and addressing root causes of irregular migration is put only on the second place, the disappointing reality of migration situation in Europe will not change for the better and EU citizens can take many more cold showers until they get tired of it.

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