A significant drop in the number of asylum applications in the EU has been seen by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), according to its annual report, published on June 18.
According to the data published, migratory pressure decreased for the second year in a row throughout 2017 on the eastern and central Mediterranean migration routes. An unprecedented upsurge, however, was seen on the western Mediterranean route. The EU’s asylum office counted 728,470 applications for international protection in 2017, a 44% drop from the 1.3 million applications in 2016.
While the overall number of asylum applications registered in 2017 dropped, some countries still noted considerable increases. Syria (15%), Iraq (7%) and Afghanistan (7%) remained the top three countries of origin of applicants in the EU. These were followed by Nigeria, Pakistan, Eritrea, Albania, Bangladesh, Guinea, and Iran. Syrian asylum seekers numbered 108,020 in 2017, a 68.4% decrease since 2016.
The latest figures for the first four months of 2018 highlight a further drop in the number of applications submitted, as between January and April saw approximately 197,000 individuals seeking international protection in the EU. The number was a far a lower number than in the same period in 2015, but higher than the pre-crisis levels of 2014.
The decrease in the number of applications lodged in the EU was distributed across most citizenships of origin to different extents, but with some noteworthy exceptions. In particular, nationals of Venezuela and Georgia have been increasingly applying for asylum in far higher numbers since 2017, increasing by 75 % and 133 %, respectively. The number of Georgian applicants has skyrocketed since the small post-Soviet state was given a visa-free travel regime with the Schengen Zone in 2017.
According to EASO’s report, the drop in the number of applications along the eastern migrant route shows that fewer people are opting to undergo the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to Greece and Italy, but are now in favour of attempting the less perilous journey across the Straights of Gibraltar from North Africa to Spain.
European countries issued 273,960 decisions for applicants, a 20% increase compared to 2016. This number reinforced an upward trend in the number of decisions made since 2015. Three-quarters of all decisions were issued in Germany (58% of the EU+ total), France (12%), and Sweden (7%). A total of 38,675 Syrians received decisions on their applications, while 34,505 Afghans received decisions, and 19,935 Iraqis saw their cases decided on. Those numbers were in contrast to a third of all decisions that were under appeal in 2016 were received by applicants of Albania, Kosovo, and Serbia with much lower recognition rates.
The Common European Asylum System (CEAS), the main receiving countries for asylum applicants were Germany, Italy, France, Greece, and the United Kingdom. The five-member group jointly accounted for three-quarters of all applications lodged in the EU+, with Germany remaining the main receiving country for the sixth consecutive year despite a 70% decrease in applications lodged in 2017 compared to 2016.
Berlin’s total of 222,560 applications was almost double that of any other receiving country and accounted for 31% of the overall applications for 2017. Italy placed second main receiving country, with 128,850 applications. France followed with over 100,000 applications. Greece was the country with the highest proportion of applicants to the number of inhabitants in the country.