The impact of the migrant crisis across Europe has been laid bare in a map – as experts warned that public opinion is turning against open-door policies.
With the political row raging in the UK, figures show that numbers of asylum seekers were higher in Germany, France, Austria, and Spain last year.
Keir Starmer has been accused of risking turning Britain into a ‘dumping ground’ for migrants coming to the EU after he mooted joining a ‘burden-sharing’ scheme to distribute arrivals.
There have been claims that could mean taking 100,000 to secure a returns deal for Channel crossers, although the Labour leader has since tried to play down the prospect.
There have also been warnings that the EU’s arrangements are in chaos, amid bitter internal wrangling on how to cope with the numbers trying to reach the continent from destinations such as Syria and Libya.
Even Germany seems to be stepping away from its previous open-door approach to taking asylum seekers.
EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen visited the Italian island of Lampedusa with PM Giorgia Meloni on Sunday as the bloc struggles to maintain a united front.
Italy has been bearing the brunt of an upsurge in numbers crossing the Mediterranean this year amid more global political turmoil.
The impact of the migrant crisis across Europe has been laid bare in a map – as experts warned that public opinion is turning against open-door policies
Data highlighted by the House of Commons Library this month put the UK lower down the table when population size was taken into account
EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen visits the Italian island of Lampedusa with PM Giorgia Meloni on Sunday as the bloc struggles to maintain a united front
Migrants are brought ashore on the Italian island of Lampedusa yesterday
According to government figures, 99,939 people sought asylum in the UK in 2022.
In contrast the number making initial applications for Germany was over 243,000, while France saw 156,000 and Spain around 117,000, according to Eurostat.
Austria also had more asylum seekers at 112,000 – although Italy’s total of 84,300 was lower than Britain.
In total, EU27 countries had more than 965,000 asylum seekers in 2022, up from 677,000 in 2017.
The figures do not cover most arrivals from Ukraine, with the UK and EU countries operating separate visa routes. There are also distinct schemes for those wanting to come to Britain from Afghanistan and Hong Kong.
Data highlighted by the House of Commons Library this month put the UK lower down the table when population size was taken into account.
How numbers of asylum seekers compared in 2022
Germany – 243,800
France – 156,500
Spain – 117,900
Austria – 112,200
UK – 99,900
Italy – 84,300
Greece – 37,400
Netherlands – 37,000
Belgium – 36,700
Cyprus – 22,200
Source: Eurostat/Home Office
Cyprus had 250 asylum seekers per 10,000 population in 2022. The UK was on around 20, below the EU average.
Syria has made up most of the first-time asylum applicants for the EU since 2013.
Last year there were 136,000 applications by people of that nationality, around 14 per cent of the overall numbers.
There were 124,925 applications from Afghanistan – 12.9 per cent of the total – while Venezuela, Turkey and Colombia made up the rest of the top five.
In terms of the UK, in 2022 the most asylum seekers came from Albania at 14,200, while there were 10,000 from Afghanistan not on the resettlement route, 7,600 from Iran, 4,100 from Iraq and 3,700 from Syria.
Peter Walsh of the Oxford University Migration Observatory told MailOnline the picture across Europe was ‘quite varied’.
He said that countries with small boat arrivals seem to have a more ‘charged’ reaction, possible because the issue is more visible.
‘The countries that are most readily comparable are Italy and Spain, because they are also experiencing quite high numbers of irregular boat arrivals – more than we do,’ Dr Walsh said.
Dr Walsh said Germany had previously maintained ‘very porous’ borders, taking the view that the Schengen area meant free movement.
However, with asylum numbers running near 300,000 a year it was becoming a ‘bigger issue’ in Berlin.
‘Other countries take a different approach like France and Poland. But there’s increasing pressure in Germany now on that approach,’ he said.
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if within a year or two they begin to enforce their border more seriously.’
On the mood in the UK, Dr Walsh said: ‘It is more charged here and I don’t know why. I could try to psychologise it, [being an] island might be a part of that and [the idea of] invasion by sea.
‘There seems to be something about boat crossings that have a stronger pull on the imagination. Of course it is visible, more visible than lorry drops…
‘But I think the gap is narrowing. In other countries like Germany – certainly it has been the case in Italy and Spain for a while and I think also in France – attitudes are hardening.
‘I think the numbers and the nature of the arrival… there is increasingly more pushback against that.’
Ms Meloni claimed on Sunday that Europe’s future is at stake unless the EU can stop the surge of uncontrolled migration across the Mediterranean.
Syria has long dominated the asylum applications in the EU, while in the UK Albania has been the source of many cases
The leader of the populist Brothers of Italy party made the declaration alongside Ms von der Leyen, on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where thousands of irregular migrants have landed on their journeys to Europe.
‘The future that Europe wants for itself is at stake here,’ Ms Meloni told a press conference.
‘The future of Europe depends on its ability to tackle epoch-making challenges of our time and the challenge of illegal immigration is for sure one of them.
She said that Italy could not shoulder the full weight of responsibility for fighting irregular migration: ‘We all stake our future on this issue. At the very least we need an EU naval mission against smugglers.’
‘If we don’t work seriously all together to fight the illegal departures, the numbers of this will not only overwhelm the border countries, but all of the others,’ she warned.
Ms von der Leyen revealed a ten-point immigration support plan to support the island of around 7,000 residents.
The EU has pledged to move the 8,500 or so migrants that currently live on the island to other parts of the bloc.
It will also step up border surveillance by beefing up Frontex, the EU’s border agency, with more equipment.
Ms von der Leyen is shown some of the small boats that have been arriving at Lampedusa
Ms von der Leyen also vowed to increase migrants’ access to legal routes, telling the press conference: ‘The better we are with legal migration the stricter we can be with irregular migration.’
She added: ‘Irregular migration is a European challenge and it needs a European answer. We will decide who comes to the EU and under what circumstance and not the smugglers and traffickers.’
Ms Meloni is looking to get the EU to accelerate a migration deal with Tunisia worth €785million (£676million) that would help the country return migrants to their countries of origin and beef up its coastguard with new and better equipment.
The EU’s latest pledge also comes days after France stepped up its border security and Germany had suspended a voluntary programme for the reallocation of migrants, complaining that Italy was not respecting the EU’s rules on accepting returned migrants.
The German government later reinstated the programme after von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel intervened.
European sentiment towards migrants has soured as data from Frontex revealed that the EU has faced a 96 per cent increase in irregular crossings via the central Mediterranean route to Italy this year.
Nearly 128,000 migrants have arrived in the EU via Italian soil this year so far, twice as many as last year.
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