Europe the EU and Italy – Asylum Seekers or Opportunists.
In the last 2 years, Europe has experienced the greatest mass movement of people since the Second World War. More than 1 million refugees and migrants have arrived in the European Union, the large majority of them fleeing from war and terror in Syria and other troubled countries. The EU has agreed on a range of measures to deal with the crisis. These include trying to resolve the root causes of the crisis as well as greatly increasing aid to people in need of humanitarian assistance both inside and outside the EU. Steps are being taken to relocate asylum seekers already in the EU, resettle people in need from neighbouring countries and return people who don’t qualify for asylum. The EU is improving security at borders with a new border and coast guard, tackling people smuggling and offering safe ways for people to legally enter the EU.
Many vulnerable people are coming to the EU to seek asylum. This is a form of international protection that is given to people fleeing their home countries and who can’t return due to a well-founded fear of persecution. The EU has a legal and moral obligation to protect those in need. Member States are responsible for examining asylum applications and for deciding who will receive protection.
But not everyone coming to Europe needs protection. Many people leave their home country in an attempt to improve their lives. These people are often referred to as economic migrants, and if they are not successful in their asylum application then national governments have an obligation to remove them to their home country, or another safe country which they have passed through.
Thousands of people have died at sea attempting to reach the EU. Almost 90 % of the refugees and migrants have paid organised criminals and people smugglers to get them across borders. As a result, they are known as ‘irregular’ migrants — that is, they have not entered the EU through legal means.
Providing people with food, water and shelter is an enormous strain on the resources of some EU Member States. This is especially the case in Greece and Italy, where the vast majority of refugees and migrants first arrive in the EU. Many of these people eventually want to reach other EU countries such as Germany or Sweden. This has caused problems too in Member States which migrants have been passing through in order to get to their final destination, for example Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Slovenia.
In a large part of the EU — the Schengen area — people are able to move freely without internal border controls, but the flow of refugees has caused some Member States to reinstate checks at their borders with other EU countries. Just as the arrival of migrants affects some Member States more than others, the number of asylum applications is not evenly spread among them. In 2015, 75 % of all asylum applications were registered in just five Member States (Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Austria and Italy).
The EU has recently reached an agreement with Turkey aimed at halting the uncontrolled flow of migrants across one of the major routes in the Aegean Sea. The agreement also provides legal ways for refugees to enter Europe. The numbers of refugees and migrants coming from Turkey have been significantly reduced as a result. From a peak of around 7 000 per day in October 2015, the average number arriving was brought down to 47 per day by the end of May 2016.