The European Commission published its 4th Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum providing a statistical and political overview of 2012.
In 2012 there was a 10% increase in the number of asylum applications in the EU, with Syrians making up 7% of the total number of 330, 000 asylum claims lodged in the EU. Among the persons seeking asylum in the EU in 2012, 12 610 were unaccompanied children who sought protection predominantly in Germany, Sweden, Belgium and Austria. These children came mainly from Afghanistan, Somalia, Guinea and Pakistan.
The report also elaborates on the financial support that is being provided to Greece. For the period 2011-2013, the country received €19.95 million under the European Refugee Fund (ERF), including 7.7 million under ERF emergency funding. In contrast, for the same period, Greece was allocated €97.9 million under the Return Fund and €129.7 million under the External Borders Fund. In 2013 alone, €3.2 million was allocated via the ERF; € 35.3 million via the Returns Fund, and €44 million via the External Borders Fund.
While the Commission welcomed the creation of a new independent asylum service and the establishment of measures to address the backlog, it also acknowledged that more work is needed to ensure that the fundamental rights of detainees are respected; that there is access to the asylum procedure and to ensure the availability of places in open reception facilities.
The Commission also reported that xenophobic violence against migrants across the EU has increased to an alarming level.
With respect to returns, the Commission plans to publish a communication by the end of 2013, which will include an evaluation of the implementation of the Returns Directive, and propose possible actions regarding the situation of persons who cannot be returned.
Regarding support to Syria’s neighbouring countries, the Commission highlighted its financial support to UNHCR in the region and its commitment to set up a Regional Protection Programme in the Middle East by 2014 which will be complementary to immediate humanitarian assistance.