July 1998 Volume 5 Number 7
EU: Asylum Seekers Up in 1997
In 1997, some 250,880 foreigners applied for asylum in the EU, up from 231,610 in 1996. Germany had 104,400 asylum applicants or 42 percent of the total; Britain with 40,600 or 16 percent; Netherlands with 34,400 or 14 percent; France with 21,400 or nine percent and Belgium with 11,800 or five percent. The leading countries of origin were ex-Yugoslavia (15 percent), Iraq (12 percent) and Turkey (11 percent).
As fighting intensified in the province of Kosovo in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia-Montenegro), Kosovo residents poured into Albania. Kosovar Albanians are 90 percent of the two million people in Kosovo. In Brussels, the EU was attempting to determine how to share the burden of supporting large groups of people who have been displaced by fighting. The EU plans to make available up to three months support for emergency aid and temporary housing, subsistence and medical care.
The overall EU plan for immigration emergencies establishes rules for granting temporary protected status for up to five years. Foreigners with TPS would be offered a minimum level of rights and benefits across the EU in areas such as education, social welfare, housing and family unification.
Switzerland in June announced that it was suspending the deportation of rejected asylum seekers from Kosovo until the end of July, 1998. There are an estimated 180,000 Kosovars in Switzerland, of whom 14,000 are asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected and another 14,000 are awaiting decisions.
The Norwegian government re-introduced visa requirements for Croatian citizens in June, 1998 after it was reported that 2,350 Croatians had applied for asylum in Norway so far in 1998; visa requirements for Croats were lifted in July 1992. Denmark also introduced visa requirements for Croatian citizens in June, while Sweden has required visas from Croatians since Croatia became independent in 1992.
The US on June 9, 1998 granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to the estimated 5,000 Yugoslavs from Kosovo in the US. The US Attorney General can grant TPS to foreign nationals in the US after finding that their countries of citizenship are experiencing ongoing civil strife, environmental disaster or certain other extraordinary and temporary conditions.
The EU's Dublin Convention on asylum seekers, which came into force in September 1997, requires the EU state first entered by an asylum seeker to decide whether he/she needs protection from persecution, and makes that decision binding on all other EU states. The EU is now developing a central database of fingerprints - Eurodac - to aid in determining whether a foreigner has previously applied for asylum in another EU state.
Labor Market. A report in the June 4 Wall Street Journal heralded a new flexibility in European labor markets, noting that temporary agencies and short-term contracts are generating job growth--employment rose seven percent in the Netherlands between 1994 and 1997, and six percent in Spain. Unemployment in the EU was 11.5 percent in May 1998.
EU-wide employment rose two percent between 1994 and 1997, after shrinking three percent between 1991 to 1994. France's Labor Minister says that "86 percent of new hires are on short-term contracts;" usually for six months and renewable just once.
The annual International Labor Conference in Geneva in June focused on the exploitation of children in the work place. Up to one million children took part in a march that began in January in the Philippines, spreading the message of respect of children's rights across 80,000 kilometers in 107 countries in Asia, Africa, South America and Europe. A new ILO convention will oblige countries signing it to increase penalties for slavery, child trafficking and prostitution.
Many governments, particularly in the Third World, have not signed or ratified current ILO conventions that establish 15 as the minimum age for work. The ILO estimates that 250 million children under age 15 work for wages, with 61 percent of the working children in Asia, 32 percent in Africa and seven percent in Latin America.
Helene Cooper and Thomas Kamm, "Europe Firms Lift Unemployment By Laying Off Unneeded Workers," Wall Street Journal, June 4, 1998.