The European Commission has called on Britain to “show solidarity” by taking in yet more migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Figures published yesterday show that the UK receives the sixth highest number of applications from asylum seekers in the EU, a number that is rising daily as migrants swarm through the Channel Tunnel.
In May, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker called upon EU member states to take their share of 40,000 asylum seekers who had crossed the Mediterranean and landed in Italy and Greece. A further 20,000 who had not yet made the trip but were intending to do so were also allocated to countries.
Britain requested an opt-out from the quota system and was granted one from the first tranche of applicants, but was forced to take some of the second tranche of 20,000.
But with thousands more migrants arriving daily, the Commission has renewed its calls for all member states to process applications, despite rules which state that migrants must register for asylum in the first country they reach.
Asked yesterday afternoon what the European Commission planned to do to tackle the crisis, deputy spokesman Mina Andreeva said the EU “stands ready to assist the French authorities in coping with the number of asylum seekers in the area,” the Daily Mail has reported.
But she added: “This is another stark example of the need for solidarity and responsibility in the way we deal with migratory pressures in Europe.
“In May, the Commission set out a European response on managing migration better and addressing all parts of the chain. From the immediate need to save lives to working on the root causes with partner countries and fighting against trafficking to a long term strategy on strengthening our asylum system and borders.
“All member states need to take measures to fight smugglers and irregular migration. At the same time they all should all show solidarity and take their share of responsibility.
“Commissioner Avramopoulos [the EU Commissioner for Migration] has repeatedly stressed the Commission expects all member states to take part in the relocation mechanism he has proposed and to put solidarity into practice.”
When asked whether this included Britain, which has opted out of Europe’s demand to take an influx of non-EU migrants, she confirmed the country was “not obliged to take part” but added: “Obviously for solidarity to work it is much welcome that there are pledges from every member state.”
In the year to March Britain received 31,945 asylum applications, around 44 per cent of which were accepted. It is not known how many migrants who entered Britain during that time failed to register and simply work illegally in the UK. Researchers at the London School of Economics last year estimated that there may be as many as 863,000 illegal immigrants currently living in Britain, although many of those will have simply overstayed on visas.
Germany registered the highest number of asylum applications in the last year – 202,815 – followed by Sweden who received 81,325 and Italy, with 64,625.
The figures, which come from the European Commission, also show that one in 20 applications made to the UK last year were registered by minors. Under 18s who arrive in Britain become the responsibility of the council which registers them, rendering that local authority liable for all their costs, including housing and university education, until the age of 25.
1,986 applications were made by minors in 2014/15, but in recent weeks numbers have accelerated sharply, forcing Kent County Council to pay up to £150 for taxis to take the children to neighbouring counties for homing.
Within the last few days, the European Commission has announced two aid packages to North African states: a €116.8 million general fund for Tunisia payable across the year, and a focused €6 million humanitarian package for people severely affected by the crisis in Libya.