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News 04 May 15

Pressure on Central Europe to Take More Asylum-Seekers

Newer EU member states likely to face pressure to share the asylum burden, which is weighing on Germany on Sweden.


Newer EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe, including Croatia, could come under pressure to take in more asylum-seekers as Germany voices irritation about the numbers heading for a select few countries.

Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, won support for a change to the system on Wednesday from Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, which is to table new immigration proposals shortly. The new plans could include a distribution key for spreading successful asylum applicants around Europe.

Last year, about a third of all 626,000 claims for asylum in the EU were made in Germany, more than anywhere else in Europe.

Germany and Sweden together deal with almost 45 per cent of all asylum claims in the EU, Merkel told the summit on Wednesday, calling for a small pilot scheme for sharing a few thousand immigrants to be made binding on the 28 EU countries.

While Germany fielded more than 200,000 claims last year, Sweden considered more than 80,000 and Italy grappled with more than 64,000. Finland, meanwhile, dealt with only 3,600, the Czech Republic with 1,000, Croatia with 450 and Romania with about 400. There are somewhat more in Bulgaria, around 2,000.

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, chaired an emergency summit in Brussels last week in response to the drowning of 800 migrants in the Mediterranean and amid calls for more to be done.

The total number of asylum applications in the 28 countries of the EU jumped by a quarter in 2014 compared to 2013.

The year saw an especially sharp rise in asylum applications last year from Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, Eritrea and Nigeria. The number from Syria alone jumped from about 50,000 to 122,000.

Attempts share the burden around poorer parts of Europe will be complicated by the fact that asylum seekers head for richer countries, where benefits are much more generous and jobs potentially more available.

Thousands of migrants move through the Balkans each year, for example, but few register asylum applications on the way, owing to the paucity of benefits and lack of opportunities they see there.

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