European nations slap new restrictions on migrants


Paris (AFP)

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:

In the last few months of 2015, six out of the 26 members of Europe's Schengen passport-free 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.

More than one million migrants entered Europe in 2015, in what is the biggest migration crisis since World War II.

In January some 30,000 refugees from war-stricken Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria again took to the Balkan route towards western Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Some recent measures:

- GERMANY, which in 2015 registered around 1.1 million asylum requests, on Thursday 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 the individual examination of asylum requests, including for Syrians, who up to then had benefited from a quasi-automatic right to asylum.

DENMARK: On January 4 Copenhagen introduced random identity checks at its border with Germany.

Then on Tuesday Denmark's parliament adopted controversial reforms aimed at dissuading migrants from seeking asylum by delaying family reunifications by three years and allowing authorities to confiscate migrants' valuables,

SWEDEN: From January 4 all train, bus and ferry passengers travelling from Denmark to Sweden have been required to show photo identification before being allowed across the border.

Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said Wednesday Sweden intends to expel up to 80,000 of the 163,000 migrants who arrived in 2015 and whose application for asylum has been rejected.

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

AUSTRIA: The migrant hotspot said on January 20 it would seek to cap the number of asylum seekers at 37,500 in 2016, less than half of the 90,000 claims received last year.

NETHERLANDS: Holland is working with some EU members on a plan to send migrants back to Turkey in exchange for giving asylum to up to 250,000 others already hosted by Turkey, according to Diederik Samsom, parliamentary leader of the coalition Labour Party (PvdA).

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

Similar measures have been adopted by EU member SLOVENIA, as well as SERBIA and MACEDONIA, both of which want to join the bloc.

NORWAY: Norway belongs to the Schengen area but is not a member of the European Union. It is currently mulling measures that could require a migrant to work for four years before allowing their family to join them. The text, which must still be approved by parliament, could also set a minimum period of three to five years for a migrant to obtain a permanent resident card.