US received maximum requests from asylum seekers in 2017, says global development body report

Paris: The United States — facing massive controversy over immigration — received more asylum requests than any other developed nation in 2017, overtaking Germany, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said in a report published on Wednesday.

Asylum requests went up by 26 percent in the US to 330,000 last year, the OECD said in its annual International Migration Outlook.

Migrants detained in the US. AP

Migrants detained in the US. AP

Germany, which had topped the ranking since 2013, meanwhile saw a 73 percent drop in applications to 198,000 as the massive influx to Europe across the Mediterranean has slowed, the report said.

The report was released as President Donald Trump faces a cacophony of criticism over his administration's practice of separating migrant children from their parents on the US-Mexico border.

"The refugee crisis has heightened concerns in the public opinion about the potential benefits of migration," the OECD's labour director Stefano Scarpetta wrote in the report. If countries want to work together better on migration and protect refugees, "these concerns must be addressed."

Trump has promised a "zero tolerance" approach to immigration, vowing that America will not become a "migrant camp". But the policy of separating families has sparked a huge uproar, with Democrats who have visited detention facilities describing crying children held in cage-like conditions.

The United Nations (UN) has slammed the separation practice as unconscionable, while Amnesty International blasted it as "nothing short of torture."

Jobs needed for young men

In Europe, which has seen hundreds of thousands of migrants arrive on flimsy boats since 2015, the OECD warned that governments needed to find jobs for young refugees or risk fuelling anti-immigrant sentiment over their failure to integrate.

Young men with little education make up a disproportionate number of the roughly four million people who have claimed asylum in Europe since 2014, the Paris-based rich nations' club said.

While it stressed the influx has so far had relatively little impact on locals' chances of getting a job, it said countries like Germany and Sweden, which have taken in particularly large numbers, could see a rise in unemployment.

In Germany, it predicted migrants could swell the number of unemployed by about six percent by the end of 2020, which would bring the unemployment rate up around half a percentage point.

The warning comes as tensions over migration have returned to the fore in European politics, not least in Germany where Chancellor Angela Merkel's interior minister is calling for a tougher approach.

The OECD said the swelling numbers of young men looking for manual work could create pressure in countries like Germany as they compete for jobs with unemployed locals. In both Austria and Germany their arrival could grow this segment of the labour market by up to 15 percent by the end of 2020.

"Young, low-educated men are over-represented among refugees," the report said. "Since this population group is already vulnerable in most host countries, well-targeted measures are needed to provide them with adequate support," it added.

"Further deterioration of employment outcomes in this group could negatively affect the public perception of the impact of refugees on the economy." It called for "policy support for low-educated men in general" to help them win jobs as well as "effective integration measures specifically for recently arrived refugees".

Unemployment has been falling for years in Germany, with fewer out of work in May than at any time since reunification in 1990 — though many who recently arrived as refugees are yet to join the labour market, undergoing job training or language classes.

The report noted governments are increasingly turning their attention to how to integrate those who stay as arrivals drop, with asylum claims falling 46 percent last year to 650,000 from 1.2 million in 2016.

Yet European states are still feuding over how to handle arrivals themselves, as shown by Italy and Malta's recent refusal to take in the 630 migrants on board the Aquarius rescue ship.


Updated Date: Jun 20, 2018 17:08 PM

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