Refugee numbers reached an all-time high in 2014, but the Bavaria’s right-wing CSU hopes to deport rejected asylum applicants within a few weeks time, saying his party is acting in “solidarity”. EURACTIV Germany reports.
With ongoing wars in the Middle East and Africa, refugee numbers peaked in 2014. In the first half of the year, 5.5 million people were forced from their homes, more than in any year since 1996.
1.4 million people were displaced across international borders during the first half of 2014, while the rest sought refuge within their home country.
These are the results of the latest UNCHR report titled Mid-Year Trends 2014, released on Wednesday (7 January).
Only a fraction of refugees seeks protection in Europe. Still, at their last closed conference, the Bavarian conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) sought to establish further limitations on the number of immigrants to Germany. The CSU’s recipe: separate the wheat from the chaff, and quickly.
“We are calling for clearer delineations between those requiring protection, such as refugees from Syria and Iraq, and those who only pretend to need such protection,” the party says in a position paper, which the CSU intended to approve at its convention on Wednesday (7 January).
Individuals who are exploiting the right to asylum for purely economic reasons must quickly leave Germany, the conservatives said. The party’s national committee, consisting of all CSU Bundestag members, supports expedited deportation for simple cases.
According to the CSU, such procedures should be able to be legally concluded within six weeks. Asylum procedures in Germany currently take about eight months. However, in the government’s 2013 coalition agreement, Social Democrats and the centre-right alliance, which includes the CSU and the Chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), agreed on a reduction to a maximum of three months.
The latest “Improvements to Termination of Residence” proposed by the CSU are meant to be implemented when the applicant comes from a so-called “secure country of origin. These include migrants from Balkan states like Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia Herzegovina, for whom there is hardly a chance at asylum.
But the CSU’s procedure is also intended for cases in which the applicant has already submitted an asylum application in another EU country. In that case, the individual is not entitled to apply in Germany according to the Dublin Principle.
NGO: CSU is currying favours with Pegida
The refugee organisation Pro Asyl criticised the CSU’s move, warning of cheap populist propaganda: “Apparently it is an attempt to curry favours with the so-called Pegida movement,” said Marei Pelzer, an advisor for Pro Asyl.
This initiative is a conscious move by the CSU, strengthening resentments that fuel the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident (Pegida), Pro Asyl claimed. The refugee organisation is calling on the CSU to end its propaganda against refugees and return to a facts-oriented debate.
With the position paper, Pro Asyl said the CSU is seeking to play different refugee groups off against each other.
“The suggestion that asylum seekers from Serbia and other West Balkan states have no reason per se to receive asylum rights, is a stark contradiction to the situation in these countries. Numerous human rights reports show that Roma people and other minorities are subjected to complete racist exclusion, not to mention often facing the threat of existential poverty,” the organisation explained.
After the paper came to light, Catholic cardinal Reinhard Marx warned against dividing immigrants into war and economic refugees. An exact separation can never be drawn, he said.
Calls for a quicker rejection procedure for asylum applications may be understandable. But many rejected applicants cannot return to their homes, the Munich Archbishop said.
CSU: Our recommendations are commensurate
Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer said he did not consider the Catholic Church’s criticism understandable. The proposals are “quite commensurate”, Seehofer told Die Welt. Bavaria is meeting refugees with solidarity, he said.
“They are humanely treated during accommodation and supervision. On the other hand, justice is a part of Christian ethics. The solidarity of the population can only survive if refugees here and in Europe are fairly distributed – and if law and order are upheld. Abuses of asylum cannot be tolerated by a state under the rule of law. And the asylum procedures must be concluded within reasonable deadlines,” Seehofer said.
The number of people under the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was 46.3 million in the middle of last year. “That is a new record value with over 3.4 million more than in 2013,” the UNHCR indicated.
Syria largest refugee group for the first time
For the first time, Syrians made up the largest share of refugees that fall under the UNHCR mandate. Over the last 30 years, those driven from Afghanistan were the largest group. Palestinian refugees are not included in the comparison because they belong to the UN organisation UNRWA.
With more than 3 million refugees in June 2014, Syrians make up 23% of the refugee population under the UNHCR mandate.
“In 2014, there was an unprecedented increase in the number of people under our care. But as long as the international community fails to find political solutions for ongoing conflicts and to prevent the outbreak of new crises, we will still be confronted with the dramatic humanitarian consequences,” explained UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
“The economic, social and human cost of supporting refugees and internally displaced persons is mainly carried by poor regions and municipalities, who are the least able to afford it,” Guterres explained. Strengthening international solidarity is a “must”, the UN High Commissioner said, in the hopes of preventing more and more people with a particular need for protection from being left without appropriate support.
Since 1999, the EU has been working to create a Common European Asylum System and improve the current legislative framework.
New EU rules have now been agreed, setting out common high standards and stronger co-operation to ensure that asylum-seekers are treated equally in an open and fair system – wherever they apply.
But EU countries rejected the Commission proposal that solidarity should apply and that asylum seekers from the countries mostly affected from the arrival of migrants should be relocated in other EU members.