New Standards and Plans: How Europe Works to Achieve a Zero Asylum Policy

Murad Jandali | 2 years ago




Refugees and migrants have always been an obsession for European countries, especially after that wave in 2015, and today asylum seekers in Europe are recalling those days, which made some European governments rush to take new measures and repudiate previous agreements in light of the energy and economic crises that hit the continent and the consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war, which clearly affected the features of Europe as a whole.

The painful scenes of migrants and asylum seekers between 2015 and 2016 led to widespread sympathy among Europeans, and during a short period at that time, the continent welcomed more than one million people, but Europe in that period changed in 2022.

Since 2015, Britain has left the European Union, the influence of the far-right has increased in European politics, the Russian-Ukrainian war has broken out, and food and energy prices have risen to unprecedented levels.

Amid all these developments, about 25,000 migrants and refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean from 2014 until today, but the broad sympathy in 2015 may not be present today.

According to a report published by the European Agency for Asylum on September 9, 2022, the number of asylum applications in European countries, Norway and Switzerland, increased by two-thirds in the first half of this year compared to 2021, reaching about 406,000 applications.

With the waves of immigration and asylum escalation once again, the danger of political repercussions is increasing at the level of Europe, amid a polarized political scene in which the ability to reach consensus and political consensus fades in the face of extremism on the right and left.

German newspapers had reported that Germany had begun issuing deportation decisions for perpetrators of some crimes, and many countries have begun to have a strict policy of whether or not asylum applications are accepted.


New Procedures

Several European countries recently revealed new plans that would reduce the number of asylum seekers on their soil, while others announced that they had actually started deportations.

Over the past years, Denmark has been the first European country to pass laws that complicate asylum procedures and make them more difficult to obtain.

The Danish center-left government has adopted one of the strictest migration policies in Europe, and despite the rejection of such a policy by the Organization for Migration and Refugees and the discovery of procedural and legal problems in its implementation, there is no guarantee that other countries will not follow it.

At the beginning of this year, the United Kingdom announced a plan classified as controversial last April in order to deport migrants, who arrive in its territory illegally, to Rwanda on a trip that was known to be a one-way ticket.

Although the policy of deportation to Rwanda is still awaiting a ruling on legal challenge in the coming period, the criticisms were directed at the British government because the plan did not prevent it from revealing another plan in this regard, targeting mainly those coming to it from Albania.

On August 25, the British government announced that it would work with its Albanian counterpart to quickly return large numbers of Albanian citizens who had arrived in England via the English Channel in small boats illegally.

The British government indicated in a statement that a plan to deport the Albanians will begin soon, with the aim of deterring these migrants from continuing to violate the migration system in the UK.

This came after the British government monitored the arrival of 1,300 people from Albania to the UK on August 22 alone, a new record set by the country, compared to only 23 on the night of the first six months of the previous year.

Accordingly, the newspaper Balkan Insight expressed concern that Germany has been trying to reduce the number of asylum seekers since 2015., listing, for example, Albania, Montenegro, and Kosovo as safe countries to deter their nationals from applying for asylum.

Within the framework of these policies, the German company Statista revealed that during the year 2021, the government granted only 21% of applicants legal status as refugees.

In this context, media reports indicated that about 6,200 foreigners were deported from Germany between last January and June, most of them from the Balkan countries.

On its part, the Netherlands decided to suspend the agreement to receive asylum seekers from Turkiye until the end of 2023.

The Dutch government revealed this new policy while observing a sharp deterioration in the conditions of asylum seekers inside the shelters due to the large numbers and the announcement of the death of a child without specifying the circumstances of death.

Norway, in turn, announced plans to deport refugees and asylum seekers in conflict with the law who no longer need protection, without specifying the standard required to declare a country safe for return.

The Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness has already submitted a proposal on this matter for consultation by the government until November 28.

On the other hand, the far-right in Sweden has demanded over the past days that the number of asylum applications by non-Europeans be reduced to nearly zero in exchange for the support of a government led by a conservative right-wing coalition, The Times reported on September 15, 2022.

After Sweden, the far-right achieved a new breakthrough in Europe, with the winning of Giorgia Meloni in Italy's parliamentary elections that were held on September 25, 2022, which will make the European consensus on a unified and integrated policy for immigration and asylum more difficult.


Faltering Agreement

On September 9, 2022, legislators of the European Union, the Council of Europe, and Parliament signed a political agreement to develop a joint roadmap on the European asylum system and a new treaty on migration; talks are scheduled to start no later than the end of this year, with legislative proposals to be approved by February 2024.

It is noteworthy that in September 2020, the European Commission presented a new charter for the European Union countries, and if it is adopted, there will be unprecedented repercussions on immigration and asylum in the European continent.

According to the charter, governments want to make EU countries less attractive to asylum and migration, in addition to getting rid of hundreds of thousands of illegal residents whose files they see no reason to grant them asylum.

There are also efforts to speed up the deportation of refugees to their countries of origin, in addition to the restlessness of the member states of the Union, which are less prosperous and luxurious, and their refusal to bear the burdens of many migrants, because of the absence of a European solidarity policy and their failure to cooperate with it or support it financially in its responsibility towards those it hosts.

So far, the European Union does not have a comprehensive agreement on migration and asylum, and all previous attempts to establish an agreement in this affair have failed.

As the draft EU migration pact has stalled since 2020, which seeks to fairly place the burden of the problem on EU countries, still lacks consensus because countries such as Austria, Hungary, and Poland have refused to do more to help frontline countries such as Greece, Italy, and Spain process and settle asylum claims.


Zero Asylum Policy

In this context, a report published by TRT Arabic on June 4, 2022, revealed that "Europe's policy has begun to differ greatly in dealing with asylum files, contrary to what it claims to grant human asylum to those in need, which came in response to the rejection of fanatical segments of the people and as a result of the pressure of the far-right after its rise throughout Europe.

The report pointed out that "Europeans against the presence of refugees in their countries claim that asylum seekers come from different and backward cultures and environments, and are unable to integrate with civilized civil societies. However, this generalization implies a lack of understanding of the cultures and civilizations from which the refugees came."

"It also indicates, albeit indirectly, that European societies that claim humanity and openness to others of different affiliations are unable to accept difference, and categorically reject the existence of the other if he belongs to a different environment or holds a different opinion," according to the report.

Therefore, today Europe seeks to achieve the so-called policy of zero human asylum under various excuses and justifications, and some countries may resort to avoiding criticism if they reject asylum applications in bulk.

European governments are trying to prolong the study of refugees' files, subject them to intensive investigations, complicate requests for family unification, put psychological pressure on them to ascertain their affiliations, and investigate the reason behind their desire to reach Europe.

On its part, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor revealed that "refugees and asylum seekers in Europe are now facing unprecedented restrictions and procedures that have caused a deterioration in their humanitarian situation and reduced their chances of stability and safety."

The Monitor stated in a statement issued on the World Refugee Day on June 20, 2022, that "the suffering of refugees and asylum seekers escalated due to a number of factors, most notably: the escalation of European governments' abuses of their rights and the structural problems in the European migration policy."

It warned of the high pace of European countries' efforts to outsource to get rid of their responsibility towards asylum seekers, which reinforces a race to the bottom among European governments.

In turn, the lawyer and legal advisor in migration and asylum issues, Basem Salem, explained in a statement to Al-Estiklal that “each European country has its own policies for dealing with the files of asylum seekers; there are countries that receive them and others that expel them, such as Italy, Greece, Hungary and Malta, which led to the distribution of tasks within the EU to a border guard, a funder and a refugee receiver.”

“In my opinion, we cannot say that Europe as a whole seeks a zero-asylum policy, but there are specific countries that seek to do so, such as Denmark and Austria. However, with the charters of these European countries, they cannot close their door to a person who is wanted politically because of religious opinions and beliefs or a violation he was subjected to,” he added.

Mr. Salem pointed out that “migration has ended in Europe; as for asylum, the file must be studied carefully and with great caution, and really ensure that the asylum seeker poses a threat to his life if he returns to his country.”

The lawyer explained that “the EU has a comprehensive agreement on migration and asylum, which is applied in most of its countries, but the European parliaments have not adopted this charter so far.”

“Currently, there is information about a one European policy for receiving refugees, defining refugees more clearly, and stopping receiving migrants, except for those with brains and expertise, according to countries' needs,” Mr. Salem said.

During the first six months of 2022, about 115,000 refugees and migrants entered Europe illegally, whether via the Mediterranean, the English Channel, or via land routes, according to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, an increase of 84% compared to the same period last year.

However, the European Border Agency and other human organizations concerned with refugee affairs suggest that the real number of migrants and refugees may be significantly higher.

They explained this as a result of tangible changes in the behavior of migrants and refugees who enter illegally, including not surrendering themselves to European authorities, preferring to reside and work illegally with great risks to their lives and rights for fear of being returned to their country.

It is noteworthy that unregulated migration to Europe is expected to continue to rise during 2023. According to the UN Refugee Agency, the global total of displaced people has risen to more than 100 million people currently. This record will be exceeded if the Russian-Ukrainian war continues.