Facts on asylum-seekers seeking refuge in Europe
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