Figures released this month have indicated that the number of people applying for asylum in Germany has dropped steeply, a sign that an agreement between the European Union (EU) and Turkey to stem the flow of migrants is working.
According to the interior ministry, around 47,300 people arrived in Germany between January and March 2017, noting that most were from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. During the same period a year ago, 60,000 applied for asylum. The German office for migration and refugees ruled on 222,395 asylum applications from January to March. About half of the individuals were allowed to stay in the country for the time being and only a fifth were granted full refugee status. Migrants who arrive in Germany are first registered at reception centres, where they have to wait for months before they can file an asylum application, which creates a huge backlog. The ministry had disclosed that at the end of March, there were still 278,000 outstanding applications that needed to be processed.
In the past two years, the huge influx of migrants to Germany has impacted Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity ahead of national elections due to take place in September. It has also fuelled the rise of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The AfD however has seen its support plunge in polls since the sharp slowdown in the flow of migrants after the deal between the EU and Ankara was reached a year ago.
Officials announced last week that the number of people arrested crossing the Mexico border into the United States has fallen to the lowest level in seventeen years.
According to US Customs and Border Protection, in March there were fewer than 17,000 arrests of undocumented migrants, the least since 2000.
Speaking to Congress, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly stated that the decline was “no accident” as he credited President Donald Trump. Mr Kelly, who is a retired Marine general, testified about the figures to the Senat Homeland Security Committee. He told the panel, “we’ve seen an absolutely amazing drop in the number of migrants coming out of Central America that are taking that terribly dangerous route from Central America to the United States.” He went on to say that “March marks the fifth straight month of decline and is estimated to be approximately 71% lower than the December 2016 total – 58,478,” noting however that “…while this recent decline in illegal migration is good news, we must ensure that the security of our southern border remains a priority to protect the nation from terrorists and other criminals.” Senator John McCain asked if Mr Kelly’s agency was receiving help from Mexican officials, with Mr Kelly stating that the US was receiving “a huge amount of co-operation from the Mexicans,” citing “very, very good relationships with the Mexicans, both on their southern border where they stopped 160,000 illegal immigrants from Central America last year.”
According to data released by US Customs and Border Protection, in February 23,589 immigrants were apprehended at the border.
Also last week, the US government began accepting bids from contractors to build a prototype for a border wall. President Trump has pledged to build a “big, beautiful wall” along the 3,200 km (2,000 mile) border with Mexico. Last week at th hearing, Mr Kelly told the Senate committee that “it is unlikely that we will build a physical wall from sea to shining sea,” adding that sensors, drones and other technology will fill in gaps where the wall will not be present and that “physical barriers do work if they’re put in the right places.”
The United States government announced this month that the number of illegal immigrants crossing into the US from Mexico went down by 40% from January to February.
Homeland Security Chief John Kelly disclosed that the “change in trends” was the result of President Donald Trump’s tough policies. Mr Kelly disclosed that the number of “inadmissible persons” crossing the US-Mexico border had dropped this year from 31,578 to 18,762 in January to February – a period when the number of arrests of illegal immigrants usually increases. He disclosed that “since the administration’s implementation of executive orders to enforce immigration laws, apprehensions and inadmissible activity is trending toward the lowest monthly total in at least the last five years.”
New rules announced by the Trump Administration last month included plans to send undocumented people to Mexico, even if they are not Mexicans, and expand the criteria for immediate deportations. The government disclosed that the new guidelines would not usher in mass deportations, but were instead designed to empower agents to enforce laws that are already on the books. The president has also signed an executive order for an “impassable physical barrier” on the US-Mexico border and has insisted that Mexico will pay for it, despite its repeated refusals. The measures have been condemned by Mexico as being “hostile and “unacceptable.”
The president made immigration and border control a key part of his election campaign, promising to protect Americans from “bad dudes.” An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the US, many of whom are from Mexico.
Meanwhile on Monday 6 March, President Trump revised his travel ban, barring people from six mainly Muslim countries. The ban however has since faced its first legal challenge from the state of Hawaii. State lawyers have asked for an emergency block on the order, stating that the measure will harm its residents, businesses and schools.
While the revised measure removed some of the more controversial language on religious minorities, Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin disclosed that it still constituted a “Muslim ban” due to the countries involved and past statements from the administration.
The directive, which includes a 120-day ban on all refugees, will take effect on 16 March. Citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somali, Sudan and Yemen, the other six countries on the original 27 January order, will once more be subject to a 90-day travel ban. Iraq, which was listed on the original order, has since been removed from the list.
President Trump’s previous order was halted by the US federal courts amidst concerns that it unfairly targeted Muslims. It caused chaos at airports and mass protests.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel headed to Africa on Sunday 9 October on a trip that aims to seek investment opportunities, which her government hopes will drive economic development on the continent and curb future waves of migration to Europe.
A flood of almost a million migrants into Germany in 2015 has had an impact on Merkel’s popularity at home. While a European Union (EU) agreement with Turkey has helped stem the flow from the Middle East and Asia, thousands of people still risk the perilous Mediterranean crossing every day from Africa to Europe. According to German Development Minister Gerd Mueller, “the migration pressure will increase dramatically in the coming years if we do not manage to generate economic prospects in African countries. Mueller has pointed to the energy sector as an area where there was an opportunity for a “win-win partnership” for Africa and German business, which have been pioneering in developing solar technology.
Merkel has described Africa as “the central problem” in the migration issue. Last month, she stated that the EU needed to establish migrant deals with North African countries along the lines of the Turkey deal. In her first multi-day trip to Africa since 2011, she will visit Mali on Sunday, Niger on Monday and Ethiopia on Tuesday. Merkel, who has yet to declare if she will seek a fourth term as chancellor next year, wants to discuss bilateral aid and business investment on her trip, as opposed to aiming to secure any deals to return migrants there. During an industry conference on 6 October, she stated, “being an open society means that we should trying to aim for a kind of blanca such that the fist thing for young Africans, when they get a smartphone in their hands, isn’t ‘I have to go where I see a better world,’ bur rather that they live in a country in which things are at least getting better step by step…This is our task.”
Germany, France and Italy want to develop particularly close partnerships with Mali and Niger, as they see these states as being key in the migration issue. In Mali, Germany has over 550 soldiers that are taking part of a UN peacekeeping mission, while in neighbouring Niger, it will open a military base aimed at combating regional jihadists.
The European Union (EU) on 26 September launched a programme to issue monthly electronic cash grants to benefit a million refugees in Turkey. The programme is pat of a deal under which Ankara will curb the numbers trying to reach Europe.
According to officials, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) will give refugees pre-paid cash cards for food, housing, schooling or medical expenses in Turkey. Speaking at a news conference, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides disclosed “today we launch the biggest and largest humanitarian project the EU had ever supported. It will provide a basic source of income for one million Syrian refugees.” Stylianides further disclosed that “the ESSN is perfect proof of the EU’s commitment to tackle the challenge posed by the refugee crisis. It’s a clear example of the strong partnership of the EU and Turkey in finding together new, innovative ways to address one of the most important humanitarian challenges of our times.”
Earlier this year, EU member states approved a fund of 3 billion euros to help Turkey improve the living conditions for some 3 million Syrian migrants on its territory. The ESSN, which is part of that agreement, will be implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Turkish Red Crescent, in collaboration with the Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Policy and the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency. The EU is also funding other humanitarian projects in the country, however Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has accused the bloc of now following through on its financial pledges.
More than a million migrants entered the EU after crossing from Turkey to Greece by boat in 2015. Since Turkey agreed to prevent people from setting sail from its shores earlier this year, the numbers taking that route have fallen dramatically.