Richard North, 01/09/2004  

Although the expected (by some) massive influx of migrants from the new accession countries does not seem to have happened (although no records are kept so it is difficult to know for sure), there has been an unexpected twist in the pattern of asylum-seeking.

It seems, according to Agence France Presse, that instead of making "old" Europe their first port of call, asylum seekers are flocking in record numbers to the new member states.

In the second quarter of 2004, the number of asylum petitions jumped 34 percent in Poland, 52 percent in Slovakia and 90 percent in Cyprus. Across the six out of the 10 new EU nations that provided statistics, the number of asylum requests increased an average of 26 percent in the second quarter of 2004 as compared to the January-March period of this year.

Part of this is due to EU agreements that are making it easier for recipient countries to send back asylum seekers to the first member state in which they seek refuge, as a result of which applicants are seeking asylum in the peripheral countries.

With the fall-off of refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq, Russians - presumably mainly from Chechnya – form the largest identifiable national group seeking asylum in the new accession countries.

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