European nations slap new restrictions on migrants

AFP , Thursday 25 Feb 2016

Refugees and migrants queue up for food rations at the transit center for refugees near northern Macedonian village of Tabanovce, while waiting for permission to cross the border into Serbia, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (Photo: AP)

European nations have adopted a raft of restrictive measures since the beginning of the year as they seek to stem an influx of asylum seekers.

Since the beginning of the year more than 110,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe after crossing the Mediterranean, adding to the more than one million people that landed on the continent in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration.

MACEDONIA: Macedonia on February 21 entirely closed its border to Afghans, stranding hundreds in Greece, and introduced more stringent document checks for Syrians and Iraqis seeking to cross its territory en route to northern and western Europe.

SLOVENIA: On February 15, Slovenia toughened its filtering system for migrants. Parliament on February 22 authorised the army to help police manage the flow of migrants crossing into Slovenia from non-Schengen member Croatia.

CROATIA: Croatia began to filter refugees in November, letting through only those fleeing war (Afghans, Iraqis and Syrians). On January 20, Zagreb decided that it would only let through migrants demanding asylum in Germany or Austria.

TURKEY: Turkey, the main departure point for migrants trying to reach the EU, tightened its visa rules for Iraqis in early February.

In the last few months of 2015, six out of the 26 members of Europe's Schengen zone reestablished provisional border controls, without closing the frontiers altogether. While Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden did so in a bid to better control the influx of migrants, France also reestablished checks in reaction to the terrorist threat after last November's multiple attacks.

BELGIUM: On February 23, Belgium temporarily reintroduced border controls with France in order to halt the arrival of migrants from the "Jungle" camp in the northern port town of Calais, who seek to get to Britain and could use Belgium as a transit route. The camp is due to be partly demolished.

AUSTRIA: Austria, which last year took in 90,000 asylum-seekers and let almost 10 times as many travel through, on February 19 imposed a daily limit of 80 claims and said only 3,200 migrants could transit to neighbouring states. It has limited asylum requests for 2016 to 37,500. The Austrian government on February 15 announced it would place six nations - Algeria, Georgia, Ghana, Mongolia, Morocco and Tunisia - on its list of "safe countries of origin", meaning migrants can be returned there.

GERMANY: Germany in 2015 registered around 1.1 million asylum requests. In late January, it announced it was limiting numbers by blocking some migrant family reunifications and declaring three North African nations - Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia - "safe countries of origin."

Under the new measures Berlin will block family reunifications for two years for rejected asylum seekers, who can't be deported because they face the threat of torture or the death penalty in their own country. Since January 1, Berlin has also reintroduced individual examinations of asylum requests, including for Syrians, who had previously benefited from a quasi-automatic right to asylum.

DENMARK: A controversial Danish law aimed at dissuading migrants from seeking asylum by delaying family reunifications by three years and allowing authorities to confiscate migrants' valuables entered into force on February 5.

SWEDEN: In late January, Sweden said it expected that around 45 percent of those who sought asylum last year would ultimately be rejected, leading to the expulsion of up to 80,000 people.

FINLAND: The Finnish government expects to deport around two thirds of the 32,000 asylum seekers that arrived in 2015.

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