A refugee in Thessaloniki | Photo: DW/Marianna Karakoulaki
A refugee in Thessaloniki | Photo: DW/Marianna Karakoulaki

The number of applications for asylum in the EU is back up. About 206,500 applications were submitted during the first four months of 2019, compared with 179,000 in 2018, according to the European Asylum Support Office.

After several years in decline, the number of first-time asylum applications lodged in European Union countries is growing again, according to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

The EASO tabulated about 206,500 applications in EU countries during the first four months of the year, according to a report in Funke media group newspapers — up 15% from the 179,000 lodged during the same period in 2018.

First-time applicants from Syrians were down 8% from 2018 to 20,392, according to the report. Venezuela came in second, with 14,257 citizens seeking asylum in the European Union, Funke reported.

Afghanistan was in third place, with the number of citizens lodging first applications for asylum in the EU up 36% to 14,042, according to Funke. The number of Colombians was up 156% to 8,097.

First-time applications from West Balkan countries such as Albania and Caucuses nations such as Georgia were up, according to the report. The proportion of applications from people from countries whose citizens don't require a visa to travel in the Schengen zone reportedly increased from roughly 20% to about 25%.

Climate change will see an increase in asylum applications in the EU  Credit DW

Germany's Afghanistan problem

As the number of asylum applications within the European Union grows, so will the number of deportations from EU countries — especially Germany.

Dominik Bartsch, the representative for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Germany, criticized the long-running practice of sending displaced people back to Afghanistan, calling the shipping of civilians to a war zone "unrealistic" and recommending that it be done only "as an exception."

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Bartsch said the UNHCR did not completely reject the practice, but added that the deciding factor must be "to what type of land these people are being brought" and pointed out that Afghanistan is currently a country in which noncombatants are at acute risk of injury or death in frequent terror attacks or combat.

On Monday, Pro Asyl, an organization that supports and advocates for displaced people in Germany, called for a complete halt of deportations to Afghanistan and Sudan ahead of the start of Wednesday's state interior minister meetings. Pro Asyl has also urged the German government not to deport people to Syria or Iraq.

The states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Saxony are petitioning for the German government to permit deportations to Syria should conditions in the country improve despite the eight-year civil war and for people who have been convicted of serious crimes or are deemed terror threats by authorities.

Through April, Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) denied 145 appeals from people who had sought refuge in churches to avoid deportation, the EPD news agency reported, citing a request for information presented to the agency by the Left party. Two people were allowed to lodge asylum applications within Germany. That makes for a success rate of just 1.4% — down from nearly 12% in 2018, when 77 of 647 appeals were granted.

The Left party has accused BAMF of having an obsession with deportations.

mkg/aw (AFP, dpa, KNA, epd)

First published: June 11, 2019

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