Classifying countries as safe countries of origin appears to substantially reduce the number of asylum applications from such countries. That is the conclusion reached by IfW economists Sebastian Braun and Richard Franke. They compared the number of asylum applications made in 2014 and 2015 from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia, which were all declared safe countries in 2014, with the applications received from the neighboring states of Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro, which are not designated safe countries. “There is clear evidence that categorizing a country as a safe or unsafe country of origin has an impact on the number of asylum applications from that country,” says Sebastian Braun, Head of the Research Area Globalization and the Welfare State.
In the first eight months of 2015, the number of first-time asylum applications made by nationals of Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro increased from 8,570 to 70,637 (724%) compared to the same period of the previous year. In contrast, the number of people from the recently designated safe countries of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia who applied for asylum in Germany rose by only 32%, to 22,281 in total, over the same period. This means that in the year to date, the number of asylum applications received from countries that have not been declared safe is three times higher than the number from safe countries of origin. Before Germany’s asylum legislation was amended in November 2014, the ratio was almost reversed (see graph).
“If designation as a safe country of origin had no effect, we would expect to see a broadly similar number of asylum applications from safe and unsafe countries of origin in the same region characterized by similar political situations, as is the case in the Western Balkans,” comments Richard Franke, IfW specialist for migration and the labor market. If asylum applications from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia had risen at the same rate as in the other Western Balkan countries, 138,925 people would have submitted an asylum claim, instead of “only” 22,281.
Richard Franke: “The argument made by some politicians that declaring states to be safe countries of origin is an ineffective, symbolic gesture, since the number of asylum applications has hardly changed, does not stand up to scrutiny. Without such a declaration, the number of asylum applications would probably have increased as sharply in the recently designated safe countries as it has in the other Western Balkan states.”
Figure: Monthly figures for first-time asylum applications from the Balkan countries, divided into safe countries of origin (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia) and other Balkan states (Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro, dotted line). The vertical line indicates the date (November 2014) when the three countries in the first group were declared safe countries of origin.
Sources: Graph based on Eurostat and BAMF data.