The refugee policies within EU states are struggling with transparency and consistency. According to a Deutsche Welle article, Catherine Woolard (director of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles) said that asylum decision-making in Europe even resembles a lottery game, meaning that people often end up being rejected even though they need protection. By researching hard and soft factors, this claim can be evaluated as “mostly true”.
Since the refugee crisis in 2015, the accommodation of people in need of aid has been a global problem. In doing so, states even within the EU are taking very different approaches.
In Germany, there is a clearly defined procedure for filing an asylum application. An asylum request must be submitted promptly after arrival. After that, people are distributed within Germany. Once in the allocated area, a personal application must be filed with the Federal Office for Migration & Refugees. If the initial examination determines that Germany is not responsible for the person for various reasons, the person is rejected and sent directly back to the home country, even if it is unsafe. If Germany is responsible, a personal consultation follows, which in turn is followed by a decision under various applicable laws. If the decision is positive, a residence permit is issued. If the decision is negative, the person concerned can appeal against it, which can be followed by another negative or positive decision. In case of a second negative decision, the person is supposed to be deported, at least according to the rules.
In Croatia, for example, according to Croatian Law on International and Temporary Protection, international protection in Croatia may be requested by a person who is a third- country national or a stateless person. Asylum will be granted to an applicant who is outside the country of his nationality or habitual residence and has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. If these conditions are not met, the applicant for protection may be granted subsidiary protection if there are justifiable reasons that indicate that returning to the country of origin will face a real risk of suffering serious injustice. The applicant is obliged to cooperate with the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia, which decides on the request.
In France, the French Office of Immigration (OFFI) has the authority to decide whether to confirm, suspend or even re-suspend confirmations for asylum seekers based on defined misconduct. Importantly, asylum applications must be filed no later than 90 days after the date of entry. Among other things, applicants may not refuse accommodation, an assigned place or leave their assigned area without permission. In addition, if they submit a request for reconsideration or are unable to meet a deadline during their procedure, the OFFI may decide to suspend the application or confirmation.
Comparison between the EU countries in numbers
To more objectively illustrate the differences within various EU countries, the following countries were compared regarding their numbers of accepted and rejected refugees over the last two years.
In Germany, 1,839,115 people were in need of protection in 2019. In 2020, only 145,071 people applied for asylum. Of these people, about one-third were rejected (32,1%) which means that 46,586 people in total were rejected after applying for asylum in 2020. In addition, 10,800 people were deported in 2020, most of whom were from Albania, Georgia and Serbia.
In Croatia, between the years 2017 and 2020, 6.173 migrants have applied for international protection. Of them 676 were granted international protection (616 asylum, 60 subsidiary protection) which is nearly 11%, according to the Ministry of the Interior. The remaining number of applications was either suspended by the person requesting international protection or rejected by the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia.
In 2019, 47.5% of decisions on the suspension of the procedure from 1986 applications for international protection were recorded, according to the Annual Report on Migration and Asylum for the Republic of Croatia for 2019. Thus, during 2020, 1932 asylum applications were submitted, but 1675 of them – which is 87% – were suspended by migrants.
Some other examples: In France, the French government decided to accept 7,886 refugees in 2020 and 14,066 in 2019. The number of asylum applications was 62,067 in 2020 and 95,577 in 2019. France rejected 80.20% of all applicants in 2020 and 79% in 2019. In overall figures, this implies that France rejected 56,172 refugees in 2020 and 73,046 in 2019.
Even though the rejection rate is high, denied people still apply for an extension later. As a result, they are later usually granted refugee status or subsidiary protection status. The number of total deportations is unknown, but 53,273 people were detained in 2019. Special attention should be paid to the automatic loss of the right of residence in France: When the French Office for Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) makes a decision of ineligibility, the person withdraws their asylum application. But if the OFPRA decides to close the application, the person is subject to a definitive deportation decision.
Continuing with Italy, the Italian state accepted 211,446 refugees in 2020 compared to 207,602 in 2019. There was no data regarding the asylum application for 2020, but in 2019, 43,783 people applied for asylum in Italy. Unfortunately, data on rejections is also missing for 2020, but 81% of refugees were rejected in 2019. This means a total of 35,464 rejected refugees this year. In addition, 53,273 people were detained in 2020.
Generally, asylum seekers can be granted either refugee status or subsidiary international protection status. Deportation and repatriation proceedings are regulated by national legislation.
In Greece, refugees have to report immediately upon arrival in order to be registered as an asylum seeker. Once the procedure has started, there are two options. Either a regular procedure is applied, and the person is granted asylum for a maximum of 6 months, or the accelerated procedure is applied, where the asylum is only valid for 30 days. If the application is rejected the person can also appeal the decision. In addition, there is a fast-track border procedure which regulates the applications of refugees on the Eastern Aegean island, who are, in contrast, subject to the Turkey statement. This fast-track variant is intended to reduce and also shorten the administrative workload with refugees. However, it is more difficult for refugees because they have to understand the system even quicker.
DW’s statement that being a refugee is like playing the lottery can be partially agreed with. On the one hand, it is true that the strategy of the receiving country determines whether a person is accepted or not. On the other hand, in nations with many admitted refugees, it can be observed that many other factors play a role. We would not equate the refugee process with a lottery, but Woolard’s statement is not wrong either, as it definitely takes luck to be treated fairly in a given country. Most importantly, the definition of when a person is considered in need of assistance makes the entire process very opaque.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Alexandra Loewe, Luisa Wolter, Dustin Lange, Christina Bensien, Laura Stich, Malte Oehl, Alena Wedell, Jade Hochschule, Wilhelmshaven, Germany ; Anđela Bratanić & Katarina Puklek, Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb, Croatia
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