Most asylum seekers to the European Union in 2011 came from Afghanistan, a new EU report revealed Tuesday (10 July).
The report by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) showed that in 2011 28,000 Afghans applied for asylum in the EU, the highest number in the decade since the war began.
EASO Executive Director Robert K. Visser said Afghans were “by far the biggest” asylum seeker group in the EU, accounting for 9% of all applications and with 17 EU countries registering Afghans in their top three.
After Afghans, Russians and Pakistanis are the second and third biggest asylum seekers in the EU, with about 18,000 and 15,000 applications in 2011 respectively. The EU yearly absorbs more asylum seekers than any other region, with 44% of all applications worldwide.
Visser said he hoped the detailed report, entitled ‘Afghanistan: Taliban Strategies – Recruitment’, would contribute towards the “quality of decisions made” in asylum cases in the EU.
He called the first EU wide country of origin report “state of the art at this moment”.
The European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee voted Tuesday (10 July) on a resolution for a permanent system for relocating asylum seekers in the EU and therefore improve policy solidarity amongst member states.
MEPs also called on more funding in this area, joint processing of applications and a stronger role for EASO. The Parliament is now waiting on Commission legislation proposals for a permanent relocation mechanism.
The EU asylum system recently came under fire, when in March UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres labeled it “extremely dysfunctional”, specifying a lack of coherent policies, reported euractiv.com.
Guterres went so far as to say that there was “no such thing as a European asylum system”.
The official used the Afghan example to demonstrate the EU’s lack of cohesion over asylum policy since, depending on the country, an Afghan applicant had had between an 8% and a 91% acceptance rate over the last year.
Visser said the average denial rate stood at 55% for Afghan applicants, with a standard deviation of about 28% between EU countries, which was why Afghanistan was chosen as the subject of the new report.
The EU asylum head said he hoped the transparency of the report’s methodology could aid in EU wide asylum decision-making processes.
Visser said he was “unable to predict” if Afghan asylum applications would increase or decrease in the coming years, especially after the forecasted 2014 EU and US military withdrawal from the country. He added it was “not the aim of the report to project into the future”.
The report singled out the fear of recruitment by Taliban or other insurgent groups as an important reason to seek asylum. Among the topics discussed with caseworkers were “madrassas” (religious schools), night letters, suicide bombers, kidnappings, training camps, ethnicity and coercion by family or other community members.
Visser said that Taliban recruitment was mostly local and that, despite its Pashtun origins, it was not confined to one ethnicity.
The EU asylum head said forced, physical recruitment remained “exceptional” but that did not take into account complex psychological or familial motives.