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Germany: 103,000 asylum applications despite Covid in 2020

Although international mobility was severely restricted as a result of the pandemic, asylum immigration to Germany remained relatively high. Most of the applicants came from Syria, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey.

In the fight against Covid-19, borders were closed in many places, flights canceled, travel banned and freedom of movement restricted on many levels. Although international mobility was more limited in 2020 than it has been for decades, there was still a high level of asylum immigration.

According to the asylum figures now published by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) for 2020, 102,581 initial applications for asylum were made. That was 28 percent less than in the previous year (142,509). A total of 122,170 asylum applications were submitted.

This also includes follow-up applications. These are usually provided by rejected asylum seekers who are already living in the country and who try again to be recognized with a new flight history. However, some applicants who re-enter after a deportation or voluntary departure also use these follow-up applications.

Despite the significant decline in the number of applications in 2020, they were still above the level of the years before 2013. In the history of the Federal Republic of Germany there were more asylum applications than in 2020 only in the years 1990 to 1999 and only then again in 2013 to 2019.

The main countries of origin of the applicants in 2020 were Syria (36,000), Afghanistan and Iraq (10,000 each) and Turkey (6000). Overall, the BAMF decided on the applications of 145,071 people last year; 37,818 of them received refugee protection; a further 18,950 received subsidiary protection and 5702 were banned from deportation. Migrants who are neither individually persecuted nor come from war regions receive this status. However, they have illnesses or they face “existential dangers”. This means that the overall protection rate has risen to 43 percent (2019: 38 percent).

46,586 applications were rejected, a further 36,015 were otherwise dealt with - for example because another state was considered responsible or the procedure was no longer pursued.

The Ministry of Interior's new way of recording
For a year now, the Ministry of the Interior, headed by Horst Seehofer (CSU), has changed the public communication of the number of applications and speaks primarily of "cross-border asylum applications". Of these there were 76,061 in the previous year. This figure comes from who subtracts those for babies born in Germany under one year from all initial applications. About a quarter (26,520) of these requests were for such births. The advantage of the size of "cross-border asylum applications" is that it shows more precisely how many migrants entered as asylum seekers in a certain period - here the year 2020.

On the other hand, it speaks in favor of using the numbers of first-time asylum applications (including babies born here shortly after entry) that they show relatively precisely how many asylum seekers are added to the state and society in a certain period of time.

The main reason for the asylum immigration still strong in historical and international comparison is the unauthorized onward travel of asylum seekers from other EU countries to the Federal Republic. According to the European asylum treaties, they should generally go through their asylum procedure in their country of first reception. If they still travel to other countries without permission, they should be brought back to the country responsible for them. However, these transfers are only successful in a few thousand cases per year, and about a third of those who are deported later travel to Germany again.

The migration route from Africa to the Canary Islands is currently of particular concern; According to the Spanish government, around 23,000 people arrived there in 2020 - almost nine times more than in the previous year (2,700). Including the other routes from Africa, around 42,000 migrants reached Spain in 2020, around half of them Moroccans and Algerians and the rest from countries such as Mali, Guinea or Ivory Coast. This means that Spain is now the main country of first arrival for unauthorized immigrants entering the EU, ahead of Italy and Greece.

EU: Moroccans in particular move on from Spain
The main reasons for the increase on the Canary Islands route are named in an internal analysis of the EU Commission's migration department and they include the Covid pandemic and the poor economic situation in the countries of origin. In addition, the migrants' risk of deportation is "very low".

According to the EU analysis, many asylum seekers coming to Spain via the Mediterranean do not apply for asylum there and move on to other countries. Accordingly, since 2018 there has been "a large gap between the findings of illegal entry at the Spanish land and sea borders and the number of asylum applications". This applies in particular to Moroccans. Another argument in favor of their illegal onward travel within Europe is that other EU countries recorded more asylum applications from Moroccans than Spain.

The supply of migrants in Bosnia-Herzegovina is currently another concern. According to the UN Organization for Migration (IOM), it is mainly about 900 people whose emergency camp near the city of Bihac burned down on Christmas. According to the IOM, there is space for them in other Bosnian reception centers, where 6,000 migrants have already lived.

However, an attempt by the Bosnian authorities to take the people to a former barracks in the south of the country by bus had failed due to resistance from the local population; the migrants were then taken back to the burned-out camp, where the army is now pitching tents for them. According to the IOM, 98 percent of these are young men, most of whom come from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Algeria, Morocco and Iraq.

Since the fire, some politicians and aid organizations have been calling for the migrants to be brought to Germany or other EU countries. So far the federal government has not planned this. Instead, over the weekend, they offered Bosnia-Herzegovina support in improving the situation on the ground. The European Union then decided to provide the state with a further 3.5 million euros in order to better accommodate the migrants.

Progress on housing in Greece
For months now, with massive support from EU countries and the UN, Greece has been improving the still partially precarious accommodation situation on the islands and has strengthened border protection as a result of the escalation at the end of February. At that time, the Turkish government tried to trigger a large migration movement: It supported thousands of migrants in attempting to cross the land border to Greece in large groups.

At the same time hardly any boats were stopped. On March 1st, 900 arrivals were counted on the islands; it has not been more on a single day since the EU-Turkey Deal came into force in 2016. The Greek government was able to prevent further deterioration through resolute border protection.

Because of the measures and the Covid situation, only around 16,000 migrants arrived in Greece in 2020, according to UNHCR. Humanitarian organizations, however, accuse Athens of rejecting boats at the sea borders with Turkey, the government denies this. At the land border, Athens reinforced the fences, so in June the Greek military had the existing border security over a length of 500 meters in the area of ​​the Kastanies border crossing extended with S-wire pulleys, barriers and concrete blocks.

In addition, the Greek authorities began in August to extend the twelve-kilometer-long border fence on a section of the Maritsa river that is often used for illegal entry. By spring 2021, appropriate fences are to be erected over a length of 27 kilometers in particularly sensitive areas.

As early as 2011, the Greek government at the time announced the construction of a 206-kilometer-long fence to Turkey in order to stop illegal entries from Turkey, which were already strong at the time. The plans met with rejection from the EU. “Fences can only be a short-term solution, but they don't solve the problem,” said EU Interior Commissioner Cecilia Malmström at the time. The EU Commission expects Greece to find other solutions for border protection and to fundamentally reform its asylum system.

Source: Welt
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