04 Dec 2014

‘Wrong number?’ The Use and Misuse of Asylum Data in the European Union

Minos Mouzourakis

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The Common European Asylum System (CEAS) is an EU policy area that is particularly evocative of the ‘politics of numbers’. The European Union has at its disposal a wide array of sources providing detailed information about the capacities and pressures of its member states’ asylum systems. This paper discusses the content of asylum data and the evolving interaction between its different sources, ranging from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to the European Commission’s EUROSTAT and DG HOME, the European Asylum Support Office, FRONTEX, the European Migration Network (EMN) and national databases. However, the way in which such data are often misused, or even omitted, in political debate affects the soundness of policy decisions in the CEAS. Drawing on debates over the contested phenomenon of ‘asylum shopping’ and the exemption of victims of torture and unaccompanied minors from accelerated and border procedures in the recast asylum procedures Directive, this briefing paper argues that solid data-based evidence is often absent from political negotiations on CEAS measures affecting refugees and asylum-seekers.

Minos Mouzourakis is an MSc graduate in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies from the Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford University.