United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

5-11 April 2012

Thursday 5 April to Wednesday 11 April 2012

Asylum-seekers avoid Denmark


The number of asylum-seekers to Europe increased by 19 per cent last year, whereas the number of asylum-seekers to Denmark decreased by 23 per cent during the same period. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has recently published statistics showing an uneven influx of asylum-seekers to Europe. Eva Singer from the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) says there is no systematic research on why asylum-seekers choose one country over another. However, one reason could be that human smugglers advise asylum-seekers where it is easiest to obtain asylum. According to Zenia Stampe from the Social Liberals the only sensible solution to this uneven distribution of asylum-seekers is to have a common EU policy. The Danish People’s Party is opposed to an even distribution of asylum-seekers in EU, arguing it would lead to an increase in asylum-seekers in Denmark.

More Syrians seeking asylum in Denmark


In just three months, 222 Syrians have applied for asylum in Denmark, compared to 463 during 2011. Deputy Police Inspector at Sandholm asylum centre, Claus Birkelyng, states that it is easy to conclude that this is a consequence of the unrest in the region, but there have also been many asylum-seekers of Kurdish origin from Syria seeking asylum on various grounds.

Increase in number of retired refugees and immigrants going home


Statistics from the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) show and increase in refugees and immigrants moving back home voluntarily from 370 in 2010 to 613 in 2011. Vagn Klim Larsen from DRC states that the largest groups to return voluntarily are elderly Bosnians, Turks, and Serbs. According to DRC, the rise of people repatriating is caused by the increase in financial support in 2010 to refugees and immigrants returning voluntarily. DRC advises immigrants to think carefully before returning as they lose their rights in Denmark immediately after leaving. A refugee can keep his or her rights by returning to Denmark within one year.

Decrease in number of naturalised new citizens


During the first quarter of 2012, a mere 166 people were granted Estonian citizenship. In comparison, the same period last year saw 366 people being granted citizenship. There are currently close to 97,000 people with undetermined citizenship living in Estonia, a number which has steadily decreased since the country regained its independence.  In 1992, stateless residents accounted for 32 per cent of the population, a figure which has currently fallen to 8 per cent.

  • Baltic News Summary 5 April 2012 (in English)

Increase in number of persons granted asylum


During the first quarter of 2012 four persons were granted asylum in Estonia, an increase from the same period last year. The authorities also received 16 asylum claims during the same period. According to Eurostat, Estonia is an unpopular country to seek asylum in. Last year, Estonia received 85 asylum claims, the lowest number amongst EU member states. In comparison, its neighbouring countries Latvia and Lithuania, received 340 claims and 535 claims respectively.

  • Baltic News Summary 9 April 2012 (in English)

Municipalities not interested in receiving refugees


Municipalities received around 1,100 refugees and asylum-seekers last year. The Ministry of the Interior’s goal was the double. In September 2011 the new integration law came into force; prolonging the financial compensation to municipalities for receiving refugees from three to four years. Despite this change, the willingness to receive refugees has not increased. Last year only 15 per cent of the municipalities opened their doors for refugees. For example Muurame municipality says that the financial situation makes it difficult for them to receive refugees. This year the demand for municipality places has decreased due to fewer asylum-seekers and is now 1,700 places. 

Forced return of Ethiopians continue as planned


More than 300 rejected asylum-seekers from Ethiopia have sued the State, arguing that the return agreement between Norway and Ethiopia should be stopped. Pål K. Lønseth State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, says that the deportations will be carried out as planned and that those who have been rejected asylum must return. Girum Zeleke, who represents the Ethiopians who have sued the State, says that many now consider church asylum. Pål K. Lønseth states that church asylum is not the solution. He points out that the Norwegian authorities will not give in to people choosing church asylum.

Asking for 93 million NOK to return asylum-seekers


Norwegian police and the Norwegian Directorate for Immigration (UDI) wants to spend 93 million NOK in order to return some 800 rejected asylum-seekers. The police states that about half of the 800 people will be forcibly returned. State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, Pål K. Lønseth, is positive towards the suggestion and adds that it is important with an efficient return policy. However, confirming the identity of the rejected asylum-seekers is often a problem states the National Police Immigration Service (PU).

Sweden directs aid towards Sahel region


The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) has decided to redirect 32 million USD to the Sahel region, with a special focus on West Africa. This is in order to prevent a famine in the region, which is unstable for a number of reasons, amongst them the recent coup in Mali. The money is to be given to organisations such as UNICEF, UNHCR and FAO, which are providing humanitarian assistance. The region is experiencing a dry period which is longer than usual, with subsequent signs of malnourishment in children. Around 15,6 million people lack stable food supplies.

Sweden to help fund Syrian refugee response


Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) is to give 30 million SEK for providing humanitarian assistance to those internally displaced in Syria. The aid is to be given to organisations that are active in the country. The decision is a response to an appeal for funds from the UN organisations OCHA and UNHCR.

Increase in number of Somalis seeking asylum


The number of people seeking asylum has increased dramatically during the first quarter of 2012. A decision by the Migration Court of Appeal, which made it easier for Somalis to be reunited with their families, is believed to be the cause of the rise in the number of Somalis seeking asylum. Compared to the same period last year, there has been a 22 per cent increase in the number of asylum-seekers. This has led the Swedish Migration Board to increase the prognosis of the number of asylum-seekers to seek refuge in Sweden during 2012.

Swedish Migration Board’s staff often faces violence at work


In 2011, a total of 349 incidents were reported. Of them, 58 included violence against staff. According to Annette Carnhede, Chair of the Union of Civil Servants (ST), the situation is very serious. More than half of the incidents occurred at centres where rejected asylum-seekers await to be returned to their country of origin. According to a questionnaire commissioned by the Swedish Migration Board (SMB), 13 per cent of those asked has experienced violence or threats at work. ST argues that an increased pressure on its staff, inadequate time and need for more resources, can partly explain the problem. It also calls for increased staff education.

Asylum-seeker deported to the wrong country


The Swedish border police deported a rejected asylum-seeker to the wrong country. Instead of being sent to Iran, the man was sent to Iraq. Subsequently, the man has been held in an Iraqi police cell for 1,5 years. UNHCR has confirmed his detainment. He has been charged with falsely alleging to be an Iraqi citizen, which could lead to 15 years imprisonment. The man’s legal representative in Sweden has finally managed to persuade Swedish officials to become involved in the man’s case. The legal representative now hopes he will be allowed to return to Sweden as a quota refugee.

UNHCR, UNICEF, and WHO ask for money to Sahel region

UNHCR in the news  

- Children are the victims. In the worst case scenario many children will die, many families will suffer, says Anthony Lake from UNICEF during a press conference held with WHO and UNHCR. The Sahel region is heavily affected by drought, high food prices, and regional conflict.

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