A new report has exposed the lottery faced by refugees when they reach the EU.
As the number of people risking their lives to reach safety in Europe nears record levels, the Asylum Information Database’s (AIDA) annual report, Mind the Gap, An NGO perspective on Challenges to Accessing Protection in the Common European Asylum System, looks at the different challenges refugees seeking protection in the EU face.
The report analyses statistical trends in asylum across the EU for 2013 and 2014 as well as addressing significant policy and legislative developments at EU level and asylum system conditions across Member States.
Crucially, the report reveals that: “A refugee’s chances of being granted protection status in the EU continue to depend on the country where the asylum application is being examined.”
Numerous reasons as to why this is the case are cited, including divergences in the assessment of the risk of persecution or serious harm upon return, the use of country of origin information, the way in which credibility of asylum seekers’ statements are assessed. The report also acknowledges that the observance and quality of procedural guarantees such as legal assistance and interpretation, influence recognition rates.
Across the EU, the highest refugee recognition rates for initial decisions were in Bulgaria (87%), Malta (84%), Romania (64%), Italy (61%) and the Netherlands (61%). In the UK in 2013, 37% of initial decisions were grants of some form of protection.
Key recommendations of Mind the Gap include:
- Unlawful push backs of asylum seekers by the countries on Europe’s borders must end. Instead, states should adopt a greater commitment to resettling refugees.
- Access to quality free legal assistance must be guaranteed at all stages of the asylum procedure.
- EU Member States should end the practice of detaining asylum seekers
- Unaccompanied children should have access to guardians, with legal powers to act in their best interests.
The report highlights that despite the increase in arrivals at Europe’s borders, the EU along with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland host just 6% of the world’s refugees. The UK receives just 7% of all asylum claims in the EU.
Syria is the main country of origin of asylum seekers in the EU and over a quarter of all asylum claims in the EU are made by children.
Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said: “The world is faced by the greatest refugee crisis in a generation, and the number of people seeking protection in Europe is nearing record level. Yet Europe is home to just 6% of the world’s refugees, with less than 1% finding shelter in the UK.
“European leaders must do all they can to help people access the safety they need, and ensure that each person is treated fairly and with dignity whichever Member State they are in. Protection shouldn’t be a postcode lottery.”