Report from the European Asylum Support Office
Two issues stand out:
- that the numbers have sky-rocketed – up from around 7,000 in 2010 to over 45,000 in 2014.
- that the figures may now be falling. As the report puts it: “The sharp increase in the flow of Eritrean applicants in the first half of 2014, and the decrease thereafter, seems to be primarily related to the dynamics of travel routes and asylum policy in Europe, rather than changes in the situation within Eritrea, although the available information is inconclusive.” [emphasis added]
The real question is this: are we beginning to see a crackdown in Africa and inside the European Union on Eritrean refugees – as a result of the Khartoum Process and changes in European asylum policy?
Between 2013 and 2014, the number of Eritrean applicants in the EU+ more than doubled, rising from 20 295 applicants registered in 2013 to about 47 140 in 2014, a 132 % increase.
While in 2013 there was a significant increase of Eritrean applicants arriving in EU+ countries during the second half of the year, 2014 was characterised by a strong rise in applicants throughout the second quarter, reaching a high of 7 875 registered in the month of July. In the latter half of 2014, the inflow of Eritreans diminished each month, falling to about 1 855 applicants in December 2014.
Almost all Eritrean applicants registered in 2014 were first-time applicants (98 %). There was also a large number of UAM applicants; 4 475 registered in 2014. This represented the second-largest group of UAM applicants recorded in the EU+ after Afghans (6 155 claimed UAMs registered in 2014).
According to information provided by Frontex during the EASO Practical Cooperation meeting, there appeared to be a high correlation between arrivals of Eritrean irregular migrants and applications for international protection. Regarding irregular entry into the EU, the vast majority of Eritreans came via the Central Mediterranean route (115), usually departing from Libya and arriving in Italy. They did not, however, apply for asylum there, usually travelling farther north to lodge their applications. On this route, Eritreans were the second-largest group of irregular migrants detected during 2014 after Syrians.
In the first half of 2014, preliminary findings showed clear indications of substantive involvement of human smugglers in the influx of Eritrean nationals which was also manifested in some sudden shifts in destination countries.
In 2014, the Netherlands and Norway were the first EU+ countries to report significant increases of Eritrean applicants, in April and May, while most EU+ countries recorded the highest number of Eritrean applicants in July. In Denmark, however, the highest level of Eritrean applicants was reached in August.
The sharp increase in the flow of Eritrean applicants in the first half of 2014, and the decrease thereafter, seems to be primarily related to the dynamics of travel routes and asylum policy in Europe, rather than changes in the situation within Eritrea, although the available information is inconclusive.
The first-instance recognition rate for Eritrean applicants in the EU+ was 89 % in 2014, with most EU+ countries issuing mainly positive decisions to Eritrean applicants. However, there were notable exceptions, such as France and Greece (116), which reported recognition rates at first instance of 27 % and 48 %, respectively.
From information gathered in the EASO Practical Cooperation meeting, the grounds submitted by Eritrean applicants were similar in most EU+ countries, and included: open-ended national service (deserters, draft evaders, or their family members); fear of persecution on the basis of their religion (e.g. Jehovah’s witnesses, Pentecostals, etc.) as well as facing the consequences of illegal departure in case of return. Quite often, several possible grounds were combined in one application.
While the recognition rate was generally high, the choice of the type of protection granted differed across EU+ countries. Some primarily used refugee status (e.g. Sweden, United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, and Belgium), while others granted subsidiary protection (e.g. the Netherlands) or used both refugee status and subsidiary protection (e.g. Switzerland, Germany, and Italy).
Although the inflow of Eritrean applicants in the EU+ has fallen since August 2014, the stock of pending cases increased throughout this year to reach about 36 000 throughout the last quarter of 2014 – possibly indicating difficulties in making decisions on Eritrean applications. At the end of December 2014, 81 % of all pending cases in the EU+ were in Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland.
This interpretation is supported by EPS data which reveals an increase in the duration in the pending caseload. Since August 2014, the number of Eritrean cases pending at first instance for more than 6 months in the EU + doubled from 6 399 to 12 672 at the end of December 2014 (the darker portion of the bars in Figure 38).