The ECRE/ELENA Information Note on Syrians seeking protection in Europe, originally published on 29 November 2013, now incorporates information concerning the decision by the Swiss government on 29 November 2013 to end visa facilitation for non-immediate family members of Syrians residing in Switzerland
ECRE and the European Legal Network on Asylum (ELENA) have published a new Information Note providing an overview of selected country practices towards those fleeing the Syrian conflict and claiming asylum in Europe. The note focuses on protection rates and types of protection status granted, access to asylum procedures, detention practices, reception conditions, rules on family reunification, resettlement programmes, and return policies for Syrian asylum seekers in 21 European countries. The geographical breadth of the analysis enables the Note to make a useful contribution to the commentary on Europe’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis.
The Note shows that the protection available for Syrians in Europe varies widely across Europe and calls for the protection standard to be raised, in order to provide Syrians with the safety and security they risk their lives to seek. Both positive and negative practices in relation to Syrian asylum seekers in Europe are documented. While Sweden has, since early September 2013, committed to granting asylum to all Syrians who reach Sweden and apply, and permanent residence once they get international protection, reports of push-backs at the Greek-Turkish border violate the fundamental principle of non-refoulement. The regular detention of Syrian asylum seekers for long periods in overcrowded detention centres in Bulgaria and Cyprus is a cause of great concern.
There are now over 2 million registered Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict in their country, with a further 76,000 awaiting registration. Although most are able to travel only as far as the neighbouring countries, some reach Europe. 10% of new asylum applications in the EU from 1 January to 31 August 2013 are from Syrian nationals (22,125 out of 219,540. Source: Eurostat). The data for successful applications indicate that, once Syrian refugees reach Europe, European countries in general appreciate the seriousness of the risks faced by Syrians if returned to the region. In the first half of 2013, the recognition rate for Syrian asylum seekers was 88% (compared with an average recognition rate of 35.5% for all nationalities over the same period).
The Note recommends that European governments show solidarity with Syrian refugees and Syria’s neighbouring countries, which host the vast majority of those in flight, by ensuring access to international protection in Europe that fully respects their human rights and dignity. The paper also provides a set of recommendations on how to improve the protection of Syrians seeking asylum in Europe.