The number of Saudi Arabian nationals applying for asylum in the European Union (EU) increased 106 percent year-on-year in the first six months of 2019, according to official figures released last week.
The latest data from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) showed that 101 Saudis applied for asylum in the EU during the first half of this year, compared to 49 in the same period last year.
The rise is despite the fact that the number from across the whole of the GCC fell by 31 percent over the same period. While Saudi Arabia had the biggest percentage change, the largest group was from Kuwait, with 302 applicants. However, this was a drop of 44 percent compared to the 548 Kuwaiti applications in the first half of 2018.
The EASO data shows that 71 Saudi asylum seekers have been waiting for less than six months for a response on their application, while 86 have been waiting for more than six months.
To put the numbers into context, 30,316 Syrians applied for asylum between January and June 2019, a year-on-year drop of 12.5 percent. Other countries with relatively large numbers included Iran (11,118 applications and a year-on-year increase of 28 percent), Russia (5,245 applications, with a drop of 2.7 percent) and China (3,616 applications and a rise of 45 percent year-on-year).
The United States had 126 Americans apply for asylum, a rise of 55 percent since last year. Globally, approximately 337,200 applications for asylum were lodged in the EU in the first six months of 2019, a year-on-year increase of 10 percent.
While the EASO does not comment on the reasons behind applicants motivations for applying for asylum in the EU, Arabian Business asked a number of analysts and experts for their opinions on the increase in applications from Saudi Arabia this year.
“A relatively small but rising number of Saudi university students, princes, Islamists, and teenage girls have fled the kingdom due to fear of persecution, retaliation against them for political activism, or lack of personal autonomy due to the system of male guardianship in place,” Robert Mason, associate professor and director of the Middle East Studies Center at the American University in Cairo, told Arabian Business.
“They are mainly seeking asylum in the United States, Canada, and Europe which have generous benefits and liberal asylum laws, including non-refoulement (the practice of not forcing refugees or asylum seekers to return to a country in which they are liable to be subjected to persecution),” he added.
Giorgio Cafiero, CEO and founder of Gulf State Analytics, a Washington D.C.-based consultancy firm which assesses risks and opportunities among GCC states for lenders, traders, investors and policymakers, said: “It is easy to imagine the number of Saudi asylum cases increasing further in the months and years ahead.
“These figures from the European Asylum Support Office highlight a worrisome trend in the post-Arab Spring period…. Women’s rights activists, poets, intellectuals, Islamists, and others who express political dissent in the kingdom have been rounded up in greater numbers since 2012,” he added.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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