Berlin – Immigration policy is hotly contested throughout the European Union. Here’s a summary of policies in certain EU member states:
Migrants, particularly those crossing from Italy have long been turned away under a 1997 agreement that stipulates the return of migrants crossing from Italy into France and the other way round. Last year, French authorities denied entry to 85,000 foreign nationals. At the end of 2015, France reintroduced border controls that had previously been lifted as part of the Schengen Agreement.
Since 2014, more than 630,000 migrants have arrived via the Mediterranean, leading to anger directed at other EU countries for failing to share a burden seen as falling disproportionately on southern EU members.
Austria began controls on its borders with Hungary and Slovenia in mid-September 2015, two days after Germany instituted controls on its southern border. Interior Minister Herbert Kickl has reserved the right to institute temporary controls on all the country’s borders.
Controls on the border with Germany were introduced at the start of 2016, with more than 5,500 migrants being turned away since, most of them from Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq. Denmark rejects refugees who have already made application for asylum in other EU countries and has withdrawn from the UNHCR quota system.
Asylum-seekers who have applied in other EU countries are returned in accordance with the Dublin accords, although this is successful in only 15 per cent of cases, according to an official investigation in June. Belgium, France and Germany accepted only around 25 per cent of those returnees between 2014 and 2016. Only half of those having their applications rejected actually leave the country. In 2017, 31,000 asylum-seekers arrived, mostly from Syria and Eritrea.
Warsaw has rejected EU agreements on distributing migrants, highlighting security reasons, and is imposing immigration controls stricter than the Dublin regulations. Deportations are to be made easier under new legislation, with border officials given more time to test applications for entry. In 2017, some 5,000 migrants applied for asylum in Poland, with 520 applications being accepted, mainly from Ukraine, Russia and Tajikistan.
Migrants who have not made an application for asylum are detained in fenced camps until deportation. Human rights activists describe camp conditions as prison-like. In accordance with the Dublin procedure, 94 migrants were transferred to other EU countries and 420 returnees accepted. Despite a strict attitude toward migration, there are no permanent controls on the borders as all neighbours are in the Schengen zone.
A strict migration policy aims to deter refugees. High metal fences have been erected along the borders to Serbia and Croatia. Those getting through are frequently caught and sent back without any possibility of legal procedure. The UNHCR sees this “push-back” policy as illegal.
The Dublin rules are rigidly applied, with the country seen as one of the least hospitable to migrants in the EU. As Slovakia’s borders are largely with other EU countries, most migrants can be detained and sent back. The short border with Ukraine is strictly controlled. Few migrants wish to apply for asylum for fear that almost certain rejection will spoil their chances in other EU countries.
The asylum application procedure is drawn out as there is a lack of officials. In 2017, more than 12,000 gained asylum or protection status. Some 17,000 are currently waiting on islands in the Aegean, many of them deciding not to apply, hoping to be able to travel on to northern Europe.
A fence has been erected along the 260-kilometre border with Turkey. “Migration pressure for us is effectively zero,” Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said recently. Migrants see the relatively poor EU member as a transit country.