On July 8, EASO released its Annual Report on the situation of asylum in the European Union in 2012.
In 2012, 335,365 asylum applications were filed in the EU, which constitutes an increase of 11% compared to 2011. According to the report, applicants from Afghanistan continue to be the most numerous overall in the EU (28,005) – including large numbers of unaccompanied children – followed by applicants from Russia (24,280) and a 206% increase in applicants from Syria (24,110), which was the largest group of asylum seekers applying for international protection for the first time in the EU in 2012.
The report states that the recorded rise in applications by Syrian nationals reflects claims made by Syrians already present on EU territory, who decided to make sur place applications as the situation worsened in their country and precluded their return. EASO acknowledges meanwhile, that the subsequent drop in Syrian applications was likely due to the fact that Syrians already in the EU finished making their applications for protection, while border controls at the Greek-Turkish land border were tightened.
For those Syrians already present in the EU, or those who managed to cross an EU border during the conflict, recognition rates reached 91%. 63% of these positive decisions granted subsidiary protection to the applicants.
Serbia ranks fifth with respect to total number of applicants and new applicants in the EU in 2012. However, repeatedly throughout the report, EASO groups applications lodged by asylum seekers from six different countries in the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, FYROM, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia – together, arguing that if taken as a group, they would constitute the largest number of applicants for international protection in the EU. EASO highlights that, taken together, these countries have a rejection rate of approximately 96% and that the vast majority of applications from citizens of these countries are considered manifestly unfounded by Members States and several EU countries have included some of them on their list of safe countries of origin. According to UNHCR figures, recognition rates for Serbian and Kosovar nationals at first instance range from 0% (Norway, Finland, UK) to 26% (Italy). While Albanians applying for asylum in Norway or Luxemburg have practically no chance of being recognised as refugees, 37% of Albanians seeking asylum in the UK were granted international protection.
According to EASO, approximately 50% of all first instance decisions were appealed against in 2012. Of these appeals, 19% resulted in some kind of protection being granted or a review of the first instance decision being ordered. In some Member States, over 50% of appeals against first instance decisions were upheld.
EASO underlines that in several Member States, provision of free legal aid suffers from a lack of funding, and that only a limited number of Member States provide free legal representation to all applicants in all stages of the asylum procedure. Most Member States limit this support to the appeal stage, or allow representation during both asylum interview and appeal only to unaccompanied children and/or applicants whose application is processed under an accelerated procedure.
Regarding access to the asylum procedure, EASO underlines specific issues of concern in Greece, the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla, and Bulgaria where the detention of asylum seekers complicates access to the asylum procedure.
The EASO report shows that the frequent use of detention, lack of effective review of the necessity of detention, overcrowded detention centres, and the detention of children and other vulnerable persons remain a concern in a number of Member States.