Newly available EU data on asylum and irregular border crossings in the first 10 months of 2020 shows the impact of the pandemic on migration to the EU. The EU as a whole registered a 33% year-on-year decrease in asylum applications and a 6-year low in irregular border crossings. However, the impact was not a uniform decrease: several local communities received unexpected large numbers of arrivals, and the overall number of arrivals has continued recovering after a large drop around April.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “Solidarity has taken on a whole new meaning in the unprecedented actions taken by the European Union to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. That same solidarity now needs to be translated into the field of migration management as well. We can only manage migration well if we do it together – whether migration is high or low. It is high time for an agreement on our proposals for a European migration and asylum policy.”
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “The pandemic had a significant impact on migration and on migrants themselves who often played a vital role in the EU’s response to COVID-19, while also facing disproportionate risks. While we negotiate the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, Member States need to continue upgrading and reforming their migration management systems. With low arrivals meaning less work for asylum systems, now is a great time to agree on a fair, efficient and resilient way to take responsibility together.”
Updated data on population changes overall, including legal migration which represents a large majority of migration into the EU, will be available later this year. That data is likely to show a large decrease in migration overall due to current restrictions. Data on returns in 2020 will also be available later this year, where a decrease is also anticipated. The Commission aims to provide updates every quarter.
Large decrease in asylum applications
In the first 10 months of 2020, 390,000 asylum applications (including 349,000 first time applications) were lodged in the EU, 33% less than in the same period of 2019. Member States reduced their backlogs of pending asylum cases. At the end of October 2020, the number of pending cases was 786,000, 15% less than at the end of 2019. This still means that on the EU level, the backlog represents more than a year’s worth of new applications – with significant variations between Member States. The recognition rate, or the percentage of asylum applications that resulted in a positive decision at first instance (before any appeals), including decisions granting humanitarian status, stood at 43%.
Irregular border crossings lowest in 6 years, but with significant regional variations
A 10% decrease in the number of irregular border crossings to the EU (114,300 in the period January-November 2020) was observed compared to the same period in 2019, the lowest level in the last 6 years. While there was a significant decrease in irregular arrivals in countries of first entry along the Eastern Mediterranean (-74%, 19,300), the decrease was predominantly due to low arrivals from Turkey to Greece, where the situation is likely to change depending on different factors including political and economic developments in Turkey.
Despite overall reductions, irregular arrivals via the Central Mediterranean (to Italy and Malta) increased (+154%) compared to the same period in 2019. There were over 34,100 such arrivals in 2020, compared to almost 11,500 in 2019, with the majority of people arriving in Lampedusa. With the exception of the month of March, arrivals consistently exceeded 2019 levels.
Arrivals in Spain, and in particular the Canary Islands, significantly increased (+46%, 35,800) in 2020 compared to 2019. In Spain, the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on irregular arrivals was temporary: since August 2020, the number of arrivals to Spain was consistently greater than in 2019.
In both cases, many new arrivals originate from countries suffering from the economic downturn rather than conflict. A decline in global remittances is also likely to contribute to this trend. Until the pandemic is contained and economic recovery is underway, poor prospects of employment and healthcare in countries of origin will remain an incentive for people to come to the EU.
Crossing the Mediterranean Sea remains dangerous. Despite decreased departures in 2020, 1,754 persons were reported dead or missing compared to 2,095 persons in 2019.
In September 2020, the Commission presented the New Pact on Migration and Asylum including a detailed evidence paper which relied on available statistics on migration to Europe to underpin the policy proposals. The Commission published statistics on migration to Europe which will be updated every quarter based on the latest available data from sources including: Eurostat, OECD, UNDESA, UNHCR, IOM and Frontex and EASO.
Data is collected on different schedules. Quarterly data is available on asylum, irregular migration and return, while annual updates are planned for overall population changes (April); visa, employment and worldwide refugee numbers (July); and legal migration as well as the application of ‘Dublin’ asylum rules (October).
Presidents of Parliament to gather for Athens Summit
Presidents of Parliament from the 47 Council of Europe member states, as well as many neighbouring and observer countries and other partner parliamentary assemblies, will meet on 21 and 22 October 2021 in Athens, on the occasion of a conference organised by the Hellenic Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The Conference will be opened by the President of the Hellenic Parliament Constantine An. Tassoulas, PACE President Rik Daems, and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić.
Some 60 Presidents and Speakers, together with 300 other delegates, are expected at the biennial summit to discuss three major topical issues:
- Democracies facing the Covid-19 public health crisis: sharing experiences
Key-note speeches by the President of the Romanian Senate Anca Dana Dragu; the Speaker of the Russian Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko; and the President of Austria’s National Council Wolfgang Sobotka.
- ‘#EnvironmentRightNow’: national parliaments and the right to a healthy and sustainable environment
Key-note speeches by the Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia Kakha Kuchava; the Speaker of the Parliament of Finland Anu Vehviläinen, and a member of the Council of Europe Advisory Council on Youth, Spyros Papadatos.
- The common future of all European citizens
Key-note speeches by the President of the Belgian Senate Stephanie D’Hose; the President of the Cypriot House of Representatives, Anita Demetriou; and the President of the Slovenian National Assembly, Igor Zorčič.
Secretaries General of the participating parliaments and assemblies are also due to meet on the margin of the conference.
The first conference was held in 1975. It takes place every two years, hosted alternately in Strasbourg or in the capital of a Council of Europe member state. At the invitation of the Hellenic Parliament, it is held this year in Athens, when the country celebrates the bicentennial of its independence.
Lorenzo Natali Media prize 2021: Winners announced
The European Commission announced the three winners of the 2021 ‘Lorenzo Natali’ Media prize: Pari Saikia, for her work on the plight of the Rohingya, Maria Altimira, for her work on the labour exploitation of migrants and Srishti Jaswal for bringing to light the hunger situation in India. For nearly three decades, the prize has recognised courageous journalism and focused on compelling, compassionate reporting that brings to light stories that matter on the global challenges impacting society.
Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, presented the prizes to the winners at today’s award ceremony: “This award of this year’s Lorenzo Natali Media prize, recognizes three exceptional journalists, whose work exemplifies the courage, integrity and dedication to global equity. As development journalists you help bring about change – whether it is tackling inequalities, protecting universal human rights, or responding to the existential threat of climate change.”
The 2021 prizewinners, selected by a grand jury from among more than 1,100 applications from across the world, are:
Pari Saikia of Vice Media India, for:
“Rohingya Brides Thought They Were Fleeing Violence. Then They Met Their Grooms”
Pari Saikia’s story on the exploitation of Rohingya refugee women exposes the drivers and the methods used in trafficking women in the region.
Maria Altimira writing in Diario Ara, for:
“Abusos en los campos de fresas”
In this piece, Maria Altimira shines a light on the labour and sexual abuse suffered by farm workers, and attempts to hold oversight agencies accountable for abuses happening on their watch.
Best Emerging Journalist prize
Srishti Jaswal, writing in Stories Asia, for:
“The Global Hunger Index Reveals India’s Ignored Hunger Crisis”
Srishti Jaswal’s investigation reveals India’s hidden hunger crisis and the under-reporting of deaths due to starvation.
The winners were chosen by a Grand Jury of experts in the fields of journalism and development:
- Diana Moukalled (Daraj.com)
- Sulemana Braimah (Media Foundation for West Africa)
- Jana Ciglerová (Denik N)
- Zuliana Lainez (International Federation of Journalists)
- Steve Sapienza (Pulitzer Center).
All entries underwent an initial pre-selection phase conducted by four journalism schools: Vesalius College in Brussels, Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon, Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona and Université Saint Joseph in Beirut.
Established in 1992, the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Media Prize is awarded in memory of Lorenzo Natali, a former Commissioner for Development and Cooperation. He was a staunch defender of freedom of expression, democracy, human rights and development.
The prize recognises high-quality, courageous reporting on compelling issues such as climate change, women´s rights, inequality, healthcare, democracy and human rights.
The prize’s three categories in 2021 were:
- Grand prize: for reporting published by a media outlet based in one of the European Union’s partner countries.
- Europe prize: for reporting published by a media outlet based in the European Union.
- Best Emerging Journalist prize: for reporting by journalists under the age of 30, published in a media outlet based in the European Union or in one of its partner countries.
70% of the EU adult population fully vaccinated
Today, the EU has reached a crucial milestone with 70% of the adult population now fully vaccinated. In total, over 256 million adults in the EU have now received a full vaccine course. Seven weeks ago already, the Commission’s delivery target was met, ahead of time: to provide Member States, by the end of July, with enough vaccine doses to fully vaccinate 70% of the adult EU population.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “The full vaccination of 70% of adults in the EU already in August is a great achievement. The EU’s strategy of moving forward together is paying off and putting Europe at the vanguard of the global fight against COVID-19. But the pandemic is not over. We need more. I call on everyone who can to get vaccinated. And we need to help the rest of the world vaccinate, too. Europe will continue to support its partners in this effort, in particular the low and middle income countries.”
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “I am very pleased that as of today we have reached our goal to vaccinate 70% of EU adults before the end of the summer. This is a collective achievement of the EU and its Member States that shows what is possible when we work together with solidarity and in coordination. Our efforts to further increase vaccinations across the EU will continue unabated. We will continue to support in particular those Member States that are continuing to face challenges. We need to close the immunity gap and the door for new variants and to do so, vaccinations must win the race over variants.”
Global cooperation and solidarity
The rapid, full vaccination of all targeted populations – in Europe and globally – is key to controlling the impact of the pandemic. The EU has been leading the multilateral response. The EU has exported about half of the vaccines produced in Europe to other countries in the world, as much as it has delivered for its citizens. Team Europe has contributed close to €3 billion for the COVAX Facility to help secure at least 1.8 billion doses for 92 low and lower middle-income countries. Currently, over 200 million doses have been delivered by COVAX to 138 countries.
In addition, Team Europe aims to share at least 200 million more doses of vaccines secured under the EU’s advance purchase agreements to low and middle-income countries until the end of 2021, in particular through COVAX, as part of the EU sharing efforts.
Preparing for new variants
Given the threat of new variants, it is important to continue ensuring the availability of sufficient vaccines, including adapted vaccines, also in the coming years. That is why the Commission signed a new contract with BioNTech-Pfizer on 20 May, which foresees the delivery of 1.8 billion doses of vaccines between the end of the year and 2023. For the same purpose, the Commission has also exercised the option of 150 million doses of the second Moderna contract. Member States have the possibility to resell or donate doses to countries in need outside the EU or through the COVAX Facility, contributing to a global and fair access to vaccines across the world. Other contracts may follow. This is the EU’s common insurance policy against any future waves of COVID-19.
A safe and effective vaccine is our best chance to beat coronavirus and return to our normal lives. The European Commission has been working tirelessly to secure doses of potential vaccines that can be shared with all.
The European Commission has secured up to 4.6 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far and negotiations are underway for additional doses. The Commission is also working with industry to step up vaccine manufacturing capacity.
At the same time, the Commission has started work to tackle new variants, aiming to rapidly develop and produce effective vaccines against these variants on a large scale. The HERA Incubator helps in responding to this threat.
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