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January 2017, Volume 23, Number 1
Some 259,500 foreigners applied for asylum in the EU in 2010; 335,290 in 2012; 626,960 in 2014; and 1,321,600 in 2015. Many migrants arrive in front-line states such as Greece and Italy, but move on to Germany and Sweden to apply for asylum.
Migrants continued to stream into Europe in 2016. Instead of going from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands, many set off in boats from Libya and hoped to be rescued 12 miles off the Libyan coast by waiting ships. The leading nationalities of migrants crossing the Mediterranean were Nigerians and Eritreans.
Over 181,000 migrants arrived in Italy in 2016 and over 5,000 died, in part because the availability of rescue boats encouraged more migrants to get into less seaworthy boats; rubber dinghies meant for 25 are routinely packed with 100 or more. The yacht Astral was re-purposed as a migrant refugee ship by Proactiva, a Spanish NGO.
Germany's interior ministry in November 2016 proposed returning African migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean to Tunisia for processing, much as Australia sends migrants arriving by boat from Indonesia to Pacific Islands for processing.
Many of those arriving in Europe in 2015 were from Afghanistan. However, some 1.5 million of the estimated 2.5 million Afghanis outside the country are expected to return in 2016, as Iran and Pakistan expel Afghanis they have sheltered for decades. Returning Afghanis who register with UNHCR receive $400 to restart their lives in Afghanistan, which may have three million internally displaced people.
There are many reports of the asylum hearings of the migrants who reached Europe in 2015. In meetings that last an hour or more, migrants describe what drove them to leave their countries, hoping to qualify for refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention, which defines refugees as persons with a reasonable fear of persecution at home due to their race, religion, ethnicity, membership in a certain group, or political views.
Populism. Nationalist and often anti-migrant political parties increased their standing in polls in 2016. Social scientists say that identity can be achieved or ascribed, with achieved identity reflecting personal achievement and ascribed identity based on characteristics such as race or religion.
Working class white voters whose incomes are flat and whose children are unlikely to achieve more than their parents are voting for populist parties. Some of those who in the past felt that achieving higher incomes came via hard work have switched to their ascribed identity of being white, and they yearn for the higher status they had in the past, embracing slogans such as "Make America Great Again."
The victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election in November 2016 strengthened populist parties in Europe and made mainstream parties more cautious about embracing large-scale immigration. Analysts advise European governments to head off populism by allowing asylum seekers to go to work quickly and by deporting foreigners whose applications are rejected.
Some believe that the rate of increase in immigrant or the minority populations rather than their share generates the strongest backlash. California has a higher share of immigrants than southeastern states, but rapid growth in immigrant populations in Alabama and Georgia prompted these states to enact laws against unauthorized migrants.
The European Commission reported that a third of Germans, a fifth of British workers, and a seventh of Danish workers require professional certificates to perform their jobs. The EU wants to liberalize trade in services, which is often limited by lengthy apprenticeship and certification requirements.
Britain. The UK wants to negotiate an agreement with the EU that preserves free trade but not the free mobility of workers. In January 2016, PM Theresa May said that Britain would risk a clean break with the EU, a hard Brexit, in order to reassert control over migration.
Some 180,000 EU nationals arrived in the EU in 2015, including 56 percent with British job offers.
May said that she hoped the EU would continue to provide tariff-free access to British goods and services, and warned that if it did not, the UK might cut corporate taxes to retain its leading role in financial services. Under the current timeline, the UK will leave the EU by the end of 2019.
France. The French government dispersed about 6,000 migrants from the so-called Jungle near the port of Calais to 451 reception centers throughout France in October 2016. Most of the migrants in the Jungle were attempting to board trucks bound for Britain via the Channel Tunnel, where they wanted to join relatives. Many of the migrants quickly congregated in northern Paris, living in tent camps in parks near metro stations.
Francois Fillon won the Republicains primary in November 2016, and is expected to face the National Front's Marine Le Pen in the contest for president in 2017. Fillon promised to reduce public sector employment, abolish the 35-hour week, and raise the retirement age. Le Pen has promised a referendum on whether France should remain in the EU, a so-called Frexit. The National Front is especially strong in southern France.
France rejected an EU constitution in 2005 by a 55-45 vote; some say that a majority of French voters would vote for Frexit today. Many Europeans acknowledge that the EU has preserved peace, but also feel that economic stagnation amidst large-scale low-skill migration threatens too much redistribution of Europe's wealth.
Germany. Some 2.4 million migrants moved to Germany in 2015 and a million left, making net migration 1.4 million. An eighth of those recognized as refugees between 2013 and 2016 were employed in 2016.
Some 280,000 new asylum seekers arrived in 2016, down from 890,000 in 2015. Many of those who arrived in 2015 did not file asylum applications until 2016, so there were 745,545 asylum applications in 2016, including 36 percent filed by Syrians and 17 percent filed by Afghanis; 476,649 asylum applications were filed in 2015.
Some 25,000 foreigners were forcibly removed in 2016, but 55,000 left voluntarily after accepting return payments; many of the voluntary returns were from the Balkans.
Germany was rocked in December 2016 by a truck driven into a Christmas market in Berlin by Tunisian Anis Amri, who had been ordered deported. At least 12 people were killed in Berlin, and Amri was killed in Milan by police. Amri was one of 168,000 foreigners who were ordered deported, and among the 37,000 who were not deported for lack of proper documents. After the Berlin attack, Merkel promised a comprehensive review of deportation procedures.
Chancellor Angela Merkel announced in December 2016 that she would be a candidate for a fourth four-year term. Merkel welcomed migrants in September 2015, and over a million arrived in 2015. Anti-migrant parties such as the Alternative for Germany have gained support, prompting Merkel to propose a ban on full-faced veils where possible and to prevent another mass migration to Germany. The AfD has 15 percent support in opinion polls.
About three-fourths of the foreigners seeking asylum in Germany in 2016 were granted some form of protection, including almost all Syrians and Eritreans, three-fourths of the Iraqis, and half of the Afghanis. Only nine percent of Moroccans and Algerians received some form of protection, and less than one percent of Tunisians. Over 800,000 foreigners were seeking asylum in September 2016; the average time for a decision on their applications was 6.5 months.
The rape and murder of a medical student in Freiburg in October 2016 generated headlines when an Afghani was arrested for the crime and German media were accused of not reporting that the suspect was a migrant. The German government emphasized that foreign-born residents are 10 percent of the country's 81 million residents and six percent of all criminal suspects.
Data suggesting that migrants are less likely to be criminals do not satisfy those who believe that, but for the decision to admit migrants, the student would be alive. The Afghani suspect arrived from Greece without papers, where he had been convicted of violent crime, and said he was 16 although it appears that he is 20.
In Austria, the Freedom Party's Norber Hofer was defeated 46-54 percent in a bid for the presidency in December 2016 elections after a campaign that focused on fear of Muslim migrants. Some 90,000 migrants arrived in 2015, prompting Austria to impose a quota of 37,500 asylum seekers a year.
Greece. Migrants arriving from Turkey without proper documents after March 20, 2016 are to be processed, returned to Turkey, and placed at the back of the line for resettlement. As of December 2016, no Syrians were forcibly returned from Greece to Turkey, but 83 returned voluntarily.
Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country, over three million, including 2.7 million Syrians and 300,000 Iraqis.
The EU-Turkey return agreement slowed outflows of migrants, but 63,000 migrants are in Greece awaiting processing and removal. The whereabouts of 13,000 of these migrants are unknown, since they did not report to migrant camps. An estimated 2,000 a month are smuggled from Greece into other EU states.
The EU Commission in December 2016 said that Greece will be able to accept the return of migrants who travel through Greece to other countries by March 2017. Under the Dublin Convention, migrants should apply for asylum in the first EU country they reach, but since 2011 other EU member states have not returned migrants who transited through Greece to Greece.
The Greek government, which received E300 billion in bailouts, 1.5 times the country's GDP, continues to struggle. Greek banks have E110 billion in bad loans, including 40 percent in delinquent mortgages. Creditors want to auction the homes of those who are not paying mortgages, leading to protests.
Italy. Over 83,000 foreigners applied for asylum in Italy in 2015, the most ever. Many are Africans and Asians who migrated to Libya and from there found smugglers to take them to Italy, or to be rescued at sea en route to Italy.
Once in Italy, migrants apply for asylum, and then wait for hearings and decisions in camps run by NGOs and private firms; over 175,000 applicants are waiting for decisions. Most Nigerians and Bangladeshis are not granted asylum in Italy, but many nonetheless remain.
PM Renzi resigned in December 2016 after Italians voted 59-41 to defeat a proposal to shrink the Senate from 315 to 100 members and to make other changes that Renzi hoped would give Italy more stable governments. Since 1947, Italy has had 63 governments led by 27 different PMs in 70 years, compared to 23 governments and eight PMs in Germany.
India. India shares a 2,500-mile border with Bangladesh, and poorer Bangladeshis have long migrated to richer India. The Indian government in 2009 rolled out a fingerprint ID system called Aadhaar, which has given all adult Indians a 12-digit ID number needed for government services.
Aadhaar helps to distribute subsidies of $40 billion a year to poor Indians, and may help to detect the 15 million to 20 million unauthorized Bangladeshis in India. However, many Bangladeshis in India already have Aadhaar numbers, which can make them difficult to detect.
Australia. The government for over a decade has had a Pacific solution to migrants who leave Indonesia on boats to seek asylum in Australia, sending them to Pacific islands such as Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing. Since July 19, 2013, foreigners who arrive by boat from Indonesia are barred from being resettled in Australia. The US in November 2016 agreed to resettle some of the 1,300 migrants on Pacific Islands.
No asylum seekers have arrived by boat since July 2014. The government announced in November 2016 that future adult boat arrivals will be barred from visiting Australia on tourist or business visas.
Australia has been accepting about 190,000 immigrants a year, including half who are already in Australia on temporary student or work visas. By allowing some of the 750,000 students and workers on temporary visas to adjust to immigrant status, over 70 percent of Australia's immigrants are skilled. About 28 percent of Australia's 24 million people were born abroad.