Facts on asy­lum-seek­ers seek­ing refuge in Europe

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel said yes­ter­day that Ger­man author­i­ties be­lieve a deadly ram­page by a lorry driver at a Ber­lin Christmas mar­ket was a “ter­ror­ist” attack likely com­mit­ted by an asy­lum-seeker. But Ber­lin’s po­lice chief later voiced doubt that a de­tained Pak­istani was be­hind the attack that killed 12, which would mean the per­pe­tra­tor re­mains at large. Here are some facts and fig­ures about would-be refugees from Pak­istan, Afghanistan and else­where:

Fig­ures show 1.25 mil­lion asy­lum­seek­ers poured into Europe in 2015 — twice as many as the pre­vi­ous year-flee­ing war and poverty in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and else­where in the Mid­dle East and North Africa. Many Euro­pean na­tions launched me­dia cam­paigns and dire warn­ings to dis­suade would-be mi­grants from mak­ing the trip, but that did not slow the in­flux.

Syr­i­ans flee­ing civil war were the largest group, num­ber­ing nearly 363,000, fol­lowed by 178,200 Afghans. A rag­ing Tale­ban in­sur­gency, which has greatly in­ten­si­fied fol­low­ing the 2014 with­drawal of US-led NATO com­bat troops, bol­sters the case for Afghan ap­pli­cants. The sit­u­a­tion is less clear-cut for the tens of thou­sands of Pak­ista­nis ap­ply­ing for asy­lum in Europe and North Amer­ica ev­ery year on the grounds of re­li­gious, po­lit­i­cal or sex­ual per­se­cu­tion.

Ah­madi Mus­lims, Chris­tians and con­verts to Chris­tian­ity are among the groups seen as most vul­ner­a­ble be­cause of fre­quent at­tacks on their homes, places of wor­ship and the ev­er­p­re­sent threat of blas­phemy charges. Other groups in­clude sex­ual mi­nori­ties, those who fear at­tacks from the Tale­ban and cou­ples who have had in­ter­faith mar­riages.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial statis­tics, 48,015 Pak­ista­nis ap­plied for asy­lum in Europe in 2015 — more than dou­ble the 22,220 in 2014. In Ger­many the num­ber of ap­pli­cants was 8,470 com­pared to 4,225 the year be­fore. Due to the por­ous western bor­der with Afghanistan, many Pak­ista­nis — es­pe­cially eth­nic Pash­tuns from the north­west-may claim to be Afghans to in­crease their chances of be­ing granted refugee sta­tus.

Ac­cord­ing to Euro­pean Union of­fi­cials the ac­cep­tance rate is around 20 per­cent for Pak­ista­nis while it is 60 per­cent for Afghans. Ex­plain­ing the dif­fer­ence, EU com­mis­sioner on mi­gra­tions Dim­itris Avramopou­los told AFP in 2015: “Pak­ista­nis can­not be qual­i­fied as po­lit­i­cal refugees given Pak­istan is in a demo­cratic process.” In July a Pash­tun teenager went on an axe ram­page on a train in Wurzburg in Ger­many, wound­ing four tourists from Hong Kong and a Ger­man passer-by.

Af­ter ini­tial spec­u­la­tion he may have been Pak­istani, he was later found to be an Afghan. Ger­man weekly Der Spiegel named him as Riaz Khan Ah­madzai, and said he had been in con­tact with the Is­lamic State group. IS had sug­gested he drive a car into a crowd, but the Afghan re­jected the idea as he did not have a driver’s li­cense. The teenager said he would in­stead get on a train and carry out his attack on­board. — AFP

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