After three years of continuous decline, the number of asylum applications lodged in the European Union has finally reached the level it was before the start of the European migration crisis, data released by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) shows.
The Agency reported that 666,480 applications for international protection requests were made in the EU+ countries, which consist of the 28 member states plus Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Iceland. This means a 10% decrease in 2018 compared to the previous year. Between 2016 and 2017, however, the drop was much more significant at 43%. The report points out that although the number of applications remained fairly stable, there were significant differences between countries.
According to the data, last year’s figures were slightly above the number of asylum applications recorded in 2014, while a year later, a rapidly rising amount of people arrived to Europe from across the Mediterranean Sea and through Southeast Europe, causing an extreme humanitarian and political crisis in the European Union.
The three largest groups of applicants were Syrian (13%), Afghan and Iraqi (7% each), together constituting more than a quarter of all applicants in 2018 (27%). Also, many applicants were from Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran, Turkey (4% each), Venezuela, Albania and Georgia (3% each).
Regarding the receiving countries, almost three quarters of the total applications were lodged in just five countries: Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Greece, and the Netherlands. Last year, Germany received the most applications for the seventh consecutive year, despite a 17% decrease compared to 2017.
The EU+ recognition rate in first instance was 39%, decreasing by 7% from the previous year. The report states the decrease was mainly due to the fact that recognition rates dropped for several citizenships, and particularly for those with many negative decisions issued.
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The highest first instance recognition rates were for applicants from Yemen (89%), Syria (88%) and Eritrea (85%), while the lowest share of positive decisions was for applicants from Moldova (1%), North Macedonia (2%) and Georgia (5%).
The number of cases awaiting final decisions was around 896,000 at the end of 2018, which is a 6% decrease compared to a year earlier.
While the data might suggest that the European migration crisis reached a resting point, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán still names immigration as the defining issue of the next 15-20 years in Europe, arguing that the population growth rates of Africa and Asia were higher than their population retention rates. That is why Hungary’s goal is to have “anti-immigration forces” in the majority in every European Union institution.
Featured photo by Sándor Ujvári/MTI.