The fourth quarter of 2018 saw the number of asylum applications in the EU peak in October, according to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which saw mostly Syrian, Afghan, and Iraqi request to legally remain in the European Union.
The EASO’s numbers pointed to a significant spike in the number of Syrian, Afghan, And Iraqi refugees seeking asylum in the block in the month of October, with their numbers jumping by 12 %, 20 % and 13 %, respectively, from September.
Iran and Turkey were also amongst the top five countries whose residents have sought refuge in the EU in the latter third of 2018. The number of Iranian applications reached 3,170 in September and October, a number not seen since the peak of the migrant crisis in 2015 and 2016. The increased number of Iranian applicants is likely due to the economic strain put on the country after the United States re-imposed harsh economic sanctions on Tehran after Washington accused the government of the Islamic Republic of being in violation of an internationally mediated nuclear deal that was signed in 2015.
Since the sanctions have come back into effect, the Iranian economy has cratered and the national currency, the rial, has collapsed as a result of Iran’s theocratic government being cut off from foreign currency trading markets, which has put an additional strain on Tehran, as well as its powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Based on available data, EASO said that the number of Turkish applicants reached a recent high in October, with 2,880 applications being filed over the course of the month. Most of the applicants filed in one of the 28 EU countries and as well as in Norway and Switzerland. The data provided indicated that around 17,300 first-time asylum cases were opened in October for Turkish passport holders, the number the highest on record. Over the past six months, 44% of Turkish applicants were allowed to stay in the EU, with the overwhelming majority being given refugee status.
Of the nationalities that saw the highest month-to-month increases in terms of the number of applicants, Georgia topped the list with 43% more asylum seekers than were registered in September. They were followed by Venezuela (+32%), and Albania (+31%). The three enjoy visa-free access to the Schengen Zone, but only Georgia has come under intense scrutiny from Brussels after the number of immigration violations, stemming from overstaying their 90-day-visa-free window skyrocketed after first being allowed to travel to Europe without a visa nearly two years ago.
The EASO said in their report that at present there are 441,226 first-time asylum cases that were awaiting a final decision by the end of October, up from the middle of the year, including 5,000 new cases in September-October alone.