2011: Year of Arab spring and pressure at Greek borders
By Nathalie Vandystadt | Thursday 31 May 2012
The European Commission will provide figures to feed into discussions on asylum and immigration at the Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg, on 7 June. In a report assessing the situation in 2011, the Commission notes an increase in the number of asylum seekers, which is mostly due to the Arab spring and to the persistent pressure along the border between Greece and Turkey.
The consequences of the Arab spring, mainly in Italy but also in Malta, as well as the migratory flow across the border between Greece and Turkey in 2011, have led to serious reflections about the way in which the EU can best address migratory pressures while maintaining effective entry mechanisms to allow for ordered and better managed migration, says the Commission in the report, which is to be released on 1 June, and which
Europoliticswas given a copy of.
As reported by Eurostat, the European statistical office, in 2011, asylum applications increased by 16.2% compared with 2010 – this amounts to 302,000 applications filed essentially in France, Germany and Italy. The applications came from Afghanistan (28,000), Russia (18,200), Pakistan (15,700), Iraq (15,200) and Serbia (13,900). In total, only 25% of asylum seekers received a positive response.
With regard to illegal immigration, estimates vary from two to 4.5 million illegal immigrants in 2011. Globally, interception at borders has decreased. In 2011, some 343,000 people were turned down at EU borders, ie 13% less than in 2010. Spain registered 70% rejections at its borders. Close to 470,000 people were arrested at borders, compared with 505,000 in 2010. Lastly, the member states expelled around 190,000 immigration candidates, which represents a 15% decrease compared to 2010. However, over 55,000 clandestine immigrants were found in the Evros region, at the border between Greece and Turkey, which represents a 17% increase over a one-year period.
All in all, there is a higher unemployment rate for foreigners than for EU nationals. In 2010, the average employment rate of third country nationals aged 20-64 was 58.5%, compared with 68.6% for the overall population of 20-64s.
More broadly, the total EU population was 502.5 million in 2011, ie an increase of 1.4 million since 2011 – the overall EU population included net immigration of 0.9 million. Some 20 million non-Europeans live in the EU, ie 4% of the overall population. This figure is higher than the 12.3 million Europeans living in an EU country that is not their EU country of origin. Most foreign nationals come from Turkey (around 2.4 million), Morocco (1.8 million) and Albania (one million).
Along with this report, the Commission will publish a Eurobarometer survey – in which findings confirm the validity of the Commission’s plans for the EU. For instance, eight in ten Europeans consider that asylum applications should use the same rules as rules of admission into the EU. This is one of the challenges addressed by the asylum package, which should help create a common scheme in the EU. Some 80% of Europeans are also in favour of more EU assistance for member states that are struggling with illegal immigration problems – Greece, for example, which is currently overwhelmed by the flow of migrants acorss its border with Turkey.
A total of 78% of Europeans believe that the cost of illegal immigration should be shared by all the EU countries.
On 7 June, the home affairs ministers are set to move forward on the asylum package proposals. This is mainly because the Commission has given its green light for national police services to consult Eurodac, the European database storing the fingerprints of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants.