Asylum: Germany processes more applications than other EU states combined

Just as it did the previous year, Germany handled more asylum applications in 2017 than all fellow EU members combined. The way Germany interprets the Dublin agreement suggests the discrepancy is set to continue.

German authorities decided on 524,185 asylum applications last year, more than the 435,070 cases being handled in all other EU states combined in 2017, according to report in German daily Welt, citing figures from the EU's statistics office, Eurostat.

The data was based on first instance decisions and gives a more accurate reflection of the number of migrants in a country than applications. Asylum seekers may travel illegally to their destination of choice after submitting an initial application.

Read more: Almost half of rejected asylum seekers winning on appeal

The data broken down:

  • Germany processed five times as many applications as Italy and Greece — two of the EU's border states — combined.
  • Only one in 26 migrants arriving in Germany via another EU member is returned to the member state they first set foot in.
  • In two-thirds of cases, Germany does not even attempt to return migrants to their point of entry.
  • Germany is the most popular destination for asylum seekers in the EU, with 187,000 arrivals in 2017; more than Italy and Greece combined.
  • On average, around 15,000 people sought protection in Germany each month between April 2016 and November 2017.
  • The data did not include figures from the Czech Republic and Spain, but the combined total of applications from those countries has not yet exceeded 12,000 per year.
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DW News | 16.01.2018

Number of asylum seekers in Germany drops drastically

Why the discrepancy with other EU members? According to the EU's Dublin regulation, asylum seekers' cases have to be processed at the point of entry into the bloc. Germany, however, allows migrants to enter from other EU countries. Authorities then decide where each case will be handled. In cases where Germany had agreed on the transfer of an asylum seeker to another EU state, only 15 percent actually traveled — either because German judges blocked the move due to inhumane conditions in some member states or because migrants went into hiding.

Read more: The EU-Turkey refugee agreement: a review

Infografik Fluchtrouten EU ENG

What about Italy and Greece? As EU border states, Italy and Greece have seen migrants flock to their shores via the Mediterranean route since 2015. However, because of the way Germany interprets the Dublin regulation, it takes far more decisions on asylum applications than Italy and Greece together. In fact, German authorities did not send a single migrant back to Greece in 2017, and a mere 2,110 cases were referred back to Italy that year.

Read more: France presents new immigration bill

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Merkel renews call for EU migrant quotas

Will Germany's new government continue these policies? The new German government will continue to allow those seeking protection to enter the country. However, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer taken a tough stance on asylum.

He has called for internal border checks to be extended when the suspension of the Schengen agreement runs out in May. He also wants to speed up deportations of rejected asylum seekers by hiring more judges and by closing loopholes used by some migrants to evade deportation.

What life is like for refugees on the Greek mainland

An old factory on the outskirts of Thebes

At the premises of the old Sakiroglou textile factory, in an industrial area just outside Thebes, a new reception center for refugees and migrants with a capacity of 700 people was launched last spring. Thebes hosts mainly refugee families and unaccompanied minors who have come from the islands, primarily Lesbos. They live here in container facilities or small apartments.

What life is like for refugees on the Greek mainland

The school year has started

On the day we visited the camp in Thebes, refugees and migrants were being registered for language and integration courses. Αpart from the UN refugee agency and the IOM, Greek NGOs such as ARSIS as well as international ones like Solidarity Now are active here. Doctors of the World provides primary health care. This refugee camp is also supported by the local government and the army.

What life is like for refugees on the Greek mainland

Eleonas, a refugee village in Athens

After Thebes, our second stop was Eleonas in Attica, close to the center of Athens. This is the first open refugee hosting center, which began operating in 2015, when the refugee crisis reached its peak. Despite its problems, it was considered from the very beginning to be an exemplary center for Greece, unlike the first reception and accommodation centers on the Aegean islands.

What life is like for refugees on the Greek mainland

Emphasis on education

Many of the refugees and migrants hosted in Eleona want to leave for Central and Northern Europe — mostly Germany. They are offered intensive English and German courses, as well as Greek courses for those who are considering staying in Greece or those who just want to feel a bit more integrated into Greek society.

What life is like for refugees on the Greek mainland

Disturbing the calm waters of Kavala

The massive arrival of migrants last year at the port of Kavala rocked the quiet northern city. Many people rushed to see the newcomers. Most welcomed or simply accepted all those who fled from their homelands. This photo was taken by journalist Giorgos Karanikas.

What life is like for refugees on the Greek mainland

Volunteers and municipal workers at Kavala's refugee camp

According to the volunteers and residents of the city, the majority of people have no problem with the refugees and migrants hosted in the former military camp, not far from the city center. Most people who work here want to help. Despina Tsolakidou and Evi Drakonti are two of them.

What life is like for refugees on the Greek mainland

Ioannina: An old οrphanage turns into a refugee center

The former children's institution of Aghia Eleni, created shortly after the Second World War by Queen Frideriki, has been transformed into new accommodation for refugees and migrants. Mostly families are hosted here, waiting for their reunification applications to be processed. Until then, they are preparing for the cold winter.

What life is like for refugees on the Greek mainland

The teacher from Aleppo

Every single person at the refugee camps has his or her own story, anxieties and journey through the war zones of Syria, the mountains of Turkey, or the turbulent waters of the Aegean. Amsa was a high school teacher from Aleppo. A bomb killed her daughter. She is stranded in Greece waiting for her family reunification application to be accepted. Meanwhile, she teaches Arabic to volunteers.

What life is like for refugees on the Greek mainland

Konitsa, the small city that never forgets

Even Konitsa, at the Greek-Albanian border, offers accommodation to refugees mainly from Syria. Most of them told DW that they feel safe and welcome here. Konitsa Mayor Andreas Papaspyrou told us that the city itself has a refugee past. In the early 1920's, Greek Orthodox refugees from Asia Minor and Cappadocia found a new home here.

What life is like for refugees on the Greek mainland

'We want to go to Germany'

Konitsa's accommodation center hosts approximately 80 people who belong to so-called vulnerable groups. Most of them stay here temporarily, while others already have the green light to leave Greece. The Derwish family from Qamishli, Syria left their homeland in order to secure a peaceful future for their kids. They only have one destination in mind: Germany.

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