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'Historic' year for asylum seekers: 15,755 applications in 2016, 43.5% approved, and 20,370 still in the pile
ASYLUM-SEEKER numbers in Spain broke all records in 2016, with 15,755 people applying for refugee status.
Around 43.5%, or a total of 6,855 have been accepted so far and 3,395, or 21.6%, declined.
The remaining 5,505 are still waiting to hear whether their applications will be successful.
Asylum seekers granted refugee status have soared, showing a great improvement on the average in the first 10 to 15 years of this century when a typical seven in 10 were rejected and deported – a number similar to that of the UK.
But only 355 of those accepted have been given full refugee status – the remaining 6,500 were given a form of 'subsidiary' protection, which is inferior and less stable, a number the Spanish Refugee Council considers 'pathetic'.
Of those who hoped to gain a safe haven in Spain last year, 90% are Syrian – of the 6,855 asylum applications approved, 6,215 were from residents of the Middle Eastern country fleeing the civil war.
The remaining 10% are mostly from the Ukraine and Venezuela.
Elsewhere in Europe, the highest numbers of refugees taken in have been in Sweden, Germany and France – the latter two have granted full protection status to 41% and 21% respectively, although this is only part of the story and many more may have been given 'subsidiary' forms of shelter.
Studies show that most refugees want to go back to their home countries as soon as it is safe – and this is clearly seen by the fact that citizens of the former Yugoslav States in western Europe are very much in the minority.
But in the case of Syria in particular, the likelihood of an imminent return seems extremely remote.
Globally, the London Refugee Council criticises the fact that many asylum seekers are given a maximum five-year residence permit, by which time they have nearly always found jobs, friends, homes and firmly entrenched themselves into the life in the country, meaning losing their residence rights overnight is an extreme upheaval.
The London Refugee Council and the Spanish Refugee Council (CEAR) coincide in their view that far greater resources are needed to process asylum applications – most of those granted refugee status in Spain last year had applied in 2015, says legal services coordinator for the CEAR, Paloma Favieres.
And as at the close of 2016, Spain still had 20,370 refugee status requests in its in-tray.
Sra Favieres says: “We need more human and financial resources to reduce the agonising wait for these poor people, many of whose lives depend upon the ultimate decision.
“Countries are legally obliged to complete applications in six months, but this rarely happens.”
Europe as a whole received 1.26 million asylum requests in 2016, meaning Spain's record is in fact only 1.3% of the total.
And although 'only' 363,000 people reached Europe by boat last year, compared with over a million in 2015, a new and tragic record was set in 2016 with over 5,000 migrants dead or missing at sea.
Debunking the myth that asylum seekers are 'usually young, fit men' who are 'not really in danger', CEAR's figures show that of Spain's total refugee requests in 2016, four in 10 were from women, or 6,350, compared with 9,400 men, but no distinction is made between adults and children, meaning many of the 'men' may actually be little boys.
In many cultures, however, including parts of the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America, the man is seen as the head of the family and it is considered his duty to provide for his wife, children and, sometimes, parents and siblings, meaning that in social terms, he effectively has no choice about leaving the country to seek work if a source of income and food cannot be found at home.
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