As statistics on asylum have become a central topic of the political debate in Europe in recent years, ECRE has critically analysed the current collection and use of asylum statistics finding a need for caution.

In particular, regarding statistics on protection rates or recognition rates, the percentage of people who are recognised or declared to be entitled to international protection, are often used in arguments about reasons for migration and appropriate policy responses. However, statistics as currently presented should be read with caution. While the adopted regulation does not address all these issues, ECRE recommends that Member states take them into account.

The focus on first-instance decision-making: First instance rates are not a reliable indicator of protection needs or even of asylum decision-making, given that a significant number of negative decisions are successfully challenged on appeal. It would be more accurate to use figures after the completion of legal processes, rather than focusing on first instance decisions. This could involve presenting the cumulative protection rate after first instance and second or final instance decisions.

Running together in-merit and admissibility decisions: To ensure accuracy, ECRE recommends calculating recognition rates on the basis of decisions on the merits of asylum claims and encourages Member States to clearly distinguish decisions on the merits from admissibility decisions in their practice.

The “asylum lottery”: poor decision-making: The “asylum lottery” is one of the flaws in the implementation of the Common European Asylum System. Flawed decision-making undermines the fundamental rights of those seeking protection, not least through contributing to refoulement. It is also a factor generating onward movement within the EU+. It is best addressed through supporting compliance with the provisions of the CEAS rather than embarking on legislative reform. The European Commission and EASO can ensure that Member States allocate adequate resources to decision-making, training legal professionals and ensuring judicial independence. While the asylum lottery persists, asylum statistics should be used with caution and disaggregated by Member States whenever possible.

Statistics and forms of protection: With few exceptions, most EUMS+ primarily granted refugee status in recent years. Nevertheless, there has been an increase in the use of other forms of protection and Member States continue to grant different statuses to similar cases. In the use of asylum statistics and resulting political conclusions, this can be misused to claim that people do not need protection because they are not granted refugee status. Figures for overall protection rates should be used, rather than “refugee recognition rates” in order to give an accurate picture of all in need of protection in Europe.

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Photo: (CC) Jim Rush, March 2013

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.