Every year, almost 100,000 Europeans seek asylum in EU countries, and the number of applications continues to grow. Yet this is a phenomenon which remains at the margins of the debate on asylum – and that on EU enlargement.
All the arguments that have broken out in Europe on the right of asylum in recent years – and the accompanying racism – are based on the idea that asylum seekers are those arriving from across the Mediterranean or Turkey, originating in Africa and Asia. In reality, among those who applied for asylum in EU countries last year there were almost 100,000 European citizens: Albanians, Turks, Russians, Georgians, Ukrainians, Armenians, etc.
These masses of people tend to escape the attention of public opinion and political powers, perhaps because among them are many minors, more difficult to pick on, but more likely because these asylum seekers have white skin. They are perceived as less threatening than the apparent hordes of young men from sub-Saharan Africa who have supposedly invaded our cities – and thus lend themselves much less easily to xenophobic instrumentalisation.
France was one of the few exceptions to this general lack of interest, since Albanians formed the largest body of asylum seekers in the country last year, therefore forcing the press and politicians to take notice. Indeed, Albanians represent a significant proportion of Europeans seeking asylum in Europe: in 2017, 22,000 Albanians sought asylum – by far the highest number compared to all other nationalities, whether in absolute terms, or in proportion to the population (almost 1% of Albanian citizens sought asylum in the EU last year).