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Refugees and migration Criticism of Europe's asylum policy

This year's report looks at the impact of the reformed Common European Asylum System (CEAS), which will see asylum seekers held up and registered at the EU's external borders.

Refugees and migration Criticism of Europes asylum policy

Marcel Furstenau

EUROPE: The European Union (EU) took in over 1 million refugees in 2023. The notorious Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, which was planned for 2,800 people, became a symbol of the bloc's failed refugee policy: Up to 20,000 men, women and children were housed there, living in catastrophic hygiene and health conditions.

The prevention of such situations must be the top priority, said migration researcher Franck Duvell from the University of Osnabrück at the presentation of the study "Global Refugee Report" (Report globale Flucht 2024) in Berlin this week. However, Duvell pointed out that still, people in many camps still live in "atrocious conditions."

The Global Refugee Report is compiled annually by the project "Flight and Refugee Research" made up of migration researchers from the Universities of Erlangen-Nuremberg and Osnabrück, the International Center for Conflict Studies in Bonn and the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS), a think tank for sustainable development policy.

This year's report looks at the impact of the reformed Common European Asylum System (CEAS), which will see asylum seekers held up and registered at the EU's external borders. Asylum seekers will have to wait up to 12 weeks in reception camps before a decision is made on their asylum application.

During that time they will be housed in collective accommodation and asylum seekers for up to 30,000 individuals. Those who come from a country from which only an average of 20% of applicants have been granted asylum before, will be subjected to an accelerated border procedure with limited rights of appeal and deported directly in the event of rejection. This also applies to families with children. Exceptions are only planned for minors traveling alone.

Duvell 's co-researcher, Petra Bendel from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, expressed her concern that those camps will be overcrowded and conditions inhumane, especially for children and families.

"Abuse prevails in numerous reception facilities at the EU's external borders. Whether this will develop into efficient procedures will have to be seen in practice," she said.

Duvell is critical of treaties with non-EU states aimed at getting them to take in asylum seekers from the EU. In 2023, for example, European leaders signed such an agreement with Tunisia, offering the North African country's leaders over €100 million ($109 mio) for "border management," and nearly €1 billion in financial support to battle the country's economic crisis. In July, there were reports of Tunisian security forces rounding up hundreds of refugees bound for Europe and transporting them to the country's desert border area with Libya, where they were abandoned without access to food, water or shelter.

Duvell warned that agreements with authoritarian states undermine democratization processes in these countries. "Europe is making itself highly dependent on despots."

The researchers expressed both relief and concern about the way the EU deals with war refugees from Ukraine. Duvell said Russia's attack on its neighboring country has triggered the largest refugee movement since World War II, But the situation could get even worse.

"If Russia is not prevented from escalating the war further or even winning, we in the West would actually have to reckon with millions more refugees," he said.

Germany has taken in around 1 million refugees from Ukraine. The migration experts applauded the government for not insisting they be put up in centralized accommodation. Civil society has helped massively, Duvell said. "Otherwise, the reception system would have collapsed as early as spring of 2022."

The researchers welcomed the EU's unbureaucratic approach but warned that the Ukranian refugees'

residence status had only been granted temporarily and would end in 2025. Duvell warned that the EU needs to make provisions for the time thereafter. "Otherwise, we will soon have a huge problem in the EU," he predicted.

The researchers pointed out that the EU's plans would also have an impact on poorer countries around the world which have taken in many more refugees than Europe. The CEAS reform will lead to a "prolongation and consolidation of displacement situations outside Europe" they said, warning that longterm displacement situations would become a permanent condition, such as the situation of the Rohingya in Bangladesh or the Syrians in Turkey, which Duvell said are "largely ignored" in Germany.

Researchers also expressed concern over developments in the Middle East which they said was exacerbated by the terrorist attack on Israel by Islamist terror organization Hamas on October 7, 2023, and Israel's subsequent military action in the Gaza Strip. The displaced people in the Gaza area are refugees who cannot flee, Duvell pointed out.

Conflict researcher Benjamin Etzold from the Bonn International Center for Conflict Studies (bicc) described the situation of the Palestinians living in the Gaza area as a "worst-case scenario." Etzold said the EU and the German government need to commit more to improving the situation of refugees worldwide. He criticized the focus on reducing access to Europe.

"With the Pact on Migration and Asylum, I see very, very little in the way of global solutions at the EU level," Etzold said.

DW Bureau
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