The EU’s rules on asylum are dysfunctional, putting far too much strain on “front line states” such as Greece and Italy, most experts tell us.
The so-called Dublin rules stipulate that asylum seekers have to apply for refugee status in the EU country in which they first arrive.
That should mean that the overwhelming majority of migrants apply for asylum in Greece or Italy, due to the fact that those countries are the primary landing points for people crossing the Mediterranean.
Italy's new populist government has accused fellow EU members of abandoning it as it struggles to cope with migrants making the perilous journey from Africa.
An often quoted figure states that more than 700,000 migrants have arrived on Italian shores since 2013. But while hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers may have arrived in Italy, UN statistics show that many didn't stick around for too long.
The figures, first reported by Die Welt, show that no other EU state hosts a number of asylum seekers even comparable with Germany, where at the end of 2017 some 1.41 million refugees and asylum seekers lived.
France had the second highest number of asylum seekers and refugees at 402,000, while in Italy the number was 355,000.
That means that the state of North Rhine-Westphalia alone, which is home to 433,236 refugees and asylum seeker, has taken in more people than any EU state outside Germany – including Italy. Meanwhile the capital Berlin is currently home to more refugees and asylum seekers at 83,000 than Greece.
The numbers do not include people who have had their asylum requests rejected. At the end of 2016 an estimated half a million people who had been turned down for asylum were still living in Germany.
Figures published by the European Commission backup the claim that Germany is the country that deals with the largest weight of the asylum flow.
While Germany made 524,185 asylum decisions last year, according to Eurostat figures, Italy made 78,235 and Greece made 24,510.
According to Die Welt, this all goes to show that Germany has rarely enforced the Dublin rules over recent years, instead allowing asylum seekers to make the application in Germany.
“This comparison does not in any way show that Italy and Greece are not burdened. These heavily indebted countries don’t have the means to handle the asylum flow like Germany.
“But the claim that Germany has left the coastal states on their own to handle the migration influx is simply wrong.”