The number of first-time asylum seekers in the European Union in the first quarter of 2016 was 287 100, a total 33 per cent lower than in the final three months of 2015, according to figures released by EU statistics agency Eurostat on June 16.
In the fourth quarter of 2015, there were 426 000 first-time applicants for international protection in EU countries, Eurostat said.
With more than 102 000 first-time applicants between January and March 2016, Syrians remained the main citizenship of people seeking international protection in the EU member states, ahead of Iraqis and Afghans (both with about 35 000 first-time applicants). They represent the three main citizenships of first time asylum applicants in the EU member states over the first quarter of 2016, accounting for 60 per cent of all first-time applicants.
During the first quarter 2016, the highest number of first time applicants was registered in Germany (with almost 175 000 first time applicants, or 61 per cent of total first-time applicants in the EU Member States), followed by Italy (22 300, or eight per cent), France (18 000, or six per cent), Austria (13 900, or five per cent) and the United Kingdom (10 100, or four per cent).
Among EU countries with high numbers of asylum seekers, numbers of first-time applicants in the first quarter 2016 compared with the previous quarter fell notably in the Nordic EU countries – Sweden (-91 per cent), Finland (-85 per cent) and Denmark (-74 per cent) – as well as in the Netherlands (-72 per cent), Belgium (-70 per cent), Luxembourg (-59 per cent) and Austria (-55 per cent).
Compared with the population of each EU country, the highest rate of registered first-time applicants during the first quarter 2016 was recorded in Germany (2155 first-time applicants per million inhabitants) and Austria (1 619), ahead of Malta (904), Luxembourg (888), Sweden (790), Cyprus (749) and Hungary (693).
In contrast, the lowest rates were observed in Slovakia (three applicants per million inhabitants), Estonia (four), Romania (11), Lithuania (13), Portugal (14) and Latvia (16). In the first quarter 2016, there were in total 565 first-time asylum applicants per million inhabitants in the EU as a whole.
Syria (36 per cent of the total number of first time applicants) remained during the first quarter of 2016 the main country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU member states.
Of the 102 400 Syrians who applied for the first time for asylum in the EU in the first quarter 2016, more than 85 per cent were registered in Germany (88 500).
In total, Syrians represented the main citizenship of asylum seekers in seven EU member states.
Iraq and Afghanistan (12 per cent each of the total number of first time applicants) were the second and third main countries of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU member states in the first quarter 2016.
Of the 35 000 Iraqis seeking asylum protection for the first time in EU countries during January-March 2016, almost three-quarters (25 600) applied in Germany. Of the almost 35 000 Afghans, more than half were registered also in Germany (19 800).
At the end of March 2016, slightly more than a million applications for asylum protection in the EU member states were under consideration by the responsible national authority.
A year earlier, at the end of March 2015, there were about 560 000.
With 473 000 pending applications at the end of March 2016 (or 47 per cent of the EU total), Germany had by far the largest share in the EU, ahead of Sweden (147 300, or 15 per cent), Austria (84 500, or eight per cent), Italy (60 000, or six per cent) and France (42 900, or four per cent).
(Photo: Jamie Dettmer/VOA)