Turkey asylum agreement bearing fruit; drop in Syrian applications

The asylum agreement between Turkey and the European Union seems to be bearing its first fruits. Since the agreement took effect last month, only 101 Syrians submitted their first application for asylum in the Netherlands - a much lower number than the 5,249 Syrian applications received at the peak in October last year, the Volkskrant reports.

In total 924 people submitted a first asylum application with the Immigration and Naturalization Service last month. With family reunification and second applications added, 1,473 people asked for asylum in the Netherlands. Both the number of first applications and the total number are lower than they were in April last year.

Due to the strong decline in the number of Syrian applications, most first applications came from Albanians with 134. Albania is considered a safe country however, so most of these applications will be rejected.

Syria is very definitely not considered a safe country, which means that many Syrian asylum seekers will be granted refugee status in the coming period. This means that many relatives will apply to join them. Which is why the government is still working on an estimate of 58 thousand asylum seekers arriving in the Netherlands this year, a similar number to last year.

This prognosis is seen as rather controversial, especially by opposition parties in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament. In November the government was still working with a scenario of over 90 thousand asylum seekers arriving in 2016. According to Prime Minister Mark Rutte, that forecast does not take current measures, such as the agreement with Turkey, into account.

The Prime Minister even hopes to limit the number of asylum seekers coming to the Netherlands this year to 26 thousand. Opposition parties D66 and PVV find this estimation overly optimistic. But given that a total of 9,275 asylum applications were filed in the country during the first four months of this year, the total number may fall under 30 thousand.

The asylum agreement involves Turkey taking back migrants or asylum seekers who come to Europe illegally. In return EU countries will take recognized asylum seekers in from Turkish refugee camps. The EU will make 6 million euros, instead of previously stated 3 million euros, available for refugee camps in Turkey – Rutte emphasized that the money goes to aid organizations, and not the Turkish government. And the EU will quickly eliminate visa requirements for Turks wanting to come to Europe and accelerated negotiations for Turkey’s admittance to the EU.