3,600 people died seeking Europe’s protection: 'EU response unsatisfactory'

413,800 first time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the European Union during third quarter

More than 3,600 people, many of them women and children, have lost their lives trying to reach safety and protection in Europe, the EU’s Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks confirmed.

Fleeing war-torn or impoverished homelands, the persons were “human beings who believed that their lives and dignity mattered to Europe”.

“Europe has let them down and continues to do so. European countries’ handling of the arrivals of migrants and asylum-seekers has been simply disastrous. If their course of action is not changed, the values and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will lose any meaning,” the Commissioner said on the occasion of international human rights day.

 “In the last months European countries have faced the arrival of an unprecedented number of migrants and a sharp increase of asylum applications. This certainly has been a challenge to many countries, but the response adopted both by individual member states and by the EU has been by and large unsatisfactory from a human rights perspective,” the Commissioner said.

Statistics released today by Eurostat show that 413,800 first time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the member states of the EU during the third quarter, a number almost double that of the second quarter of 2015.

During the third quarter of 2015, the number of Syrians and Iraqis seeking international protection has more than tripled compared with the previous quarter to reach almost 138,000 and 44,500 respectively; while the number of Afghans has doubled to more than 56,500. They represent the three main citizenships of first time asylum applicants in the EU Member States over the third quarter 2015, accounting for more than half of all first time applicants.  

The Commissioner pointed out that some countries toughened their asylum and immigration legislation, sometimes making it a crime to entry and stay irregularly.

Others have erected fences or detained migrants or asylum-seekers in prison-like structures. Cases of police violence and push-backs became more frequent and an increasingly vocal anti-immigrant rhetoric has permeated the public and political debate.

“This approach is wrong and causes unnecessary suffering to people, many of whom are children, who have already been through very traumatising experiences and taken perilous routes in search of protection,” the Commissioner said.

“We cannot tolerate this situation. European countries have to change approach and hold true to the values of solidarity and tolerance they have committed themselves to when they joined the Council of Europe. They have to understand that the situation of those trying to reach Europe today is not different from that of our fathers and mothers who, not long ago, were fleeing wars, persecution, torture or poverty.”

The Commissioner urged member states to design more humane policies which improve reception conditions, facilitate safe passage and access to asylum, and foster effective integration into the host societies.

“We Europeans have to get this right. Otherwise, we will cause more suffering, betray our heritage, and forsake our identity as a continent of human rights.”

More than half applied for asylum in Germany or Hungary

During the third quarter 2015, the highest number of first time applicants was registered in Germany and Hungary (both with slightly over 108 000 first time applicants, or 26% each of total first time applicants in the EU Member States), followed by Sweden (42 500, or 10%), Italy (28 400, or 7%) and Austria (27 600, or 7%).

Compared with the previous quarter, the number of first time asylum applicants in the third quarter 2015 notably jumped in Finland (+842%), Hungary (+231%), Sweden (+197%), Belgium (+191%), Luxembourg (+154%), the Netherlands (+136%), Denmark (+121%), Poland (+110%) and Italy (+91%).

Highest number of first time applicants relative to the population in Hungary

Compared with the population of each Member State, the highest rate of registered first time applicants during the third quarter 2015 was recorded in Hungary (10,974 first time applicants per million inhabitants), ahead of Sweden (4 362), Austria (3 215), Finland (2 765), Germany (1,334), Belgium (1,301) and Luxembourg (1,108). In contrast, the lowest rates were observed in Slovakia (3 applicants per million inhabitants), Croatia (8), Romania (14), Portugal (21) and the Czech Republic (25). In the third quarter 2015, there were in total 814 first time asylum applicants per million inhabitants in the EU Member States.

One out of three first time asylum seekers originates from Syria

Syria (33% of the total number of first time applicants) was again during the third quarter of 2015 the main country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States. Of the 137 900 Syrians who applied for the first time for asylum in the EU in the third quarter 2015, almost two-thirds were registered in two Member States: Hungary (53 100) and Germany (35 800). In total, Syrians represented the main citizenship of asylum seekers in eleven EU Member States.

Afghanistan (14% of the total number of first time applicants) remained the second main country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States in the third quarter 2015. Of the 56,700 Afghans seeking asylum protection for the first time in the EU Member States during the period July-September 2015, nearly half (27,600) applied in Hungary.

With 44 400 first time applicants (or 11% of the EU total) during the third quarter 2015, Iraq was the third country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States. More than a quarter of them applied in Finland (11,600).

Over 800 000,asylum applications pending

Pending applications refer to all persons who have made, at any time, an application for international protection which is still under consideration by the responsible national authority at the end of the reference period. It thus refers to the “stock” of applications for which decisions are still pending. This indicator is meant to measure the workload of the national authorities.

At the end of September 2015, more than 808,000 applications for asylum protection in the EU Member States were still under consideration by the responsible national authority. Last year, at the end of September 2014, there were almost 435,000. With 366,000 pending applications at the end of September 2015 (or 45% of the EU total), Germany had by far the largest share in the EU, ahead of Hungary (107,500, or 13%), Sweden (85,700, or 11%) and Italy (50,500, or 6%).