The number of asylum applications in EU+ countries – meaning the 28 member states of the bloc plus Norway and Switzerland – was 43 per cent lower in 2017 than the year before, according to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
In 2017, EU+ countries recorded 706 913 asylum applications, EASO said on February 1 2018.
The decrease in 2017 was the second consecutive year with fewer applications after the unprecedented influx in 2015 and 2016.
Despite this decrease, the 2017 total remained at a slightly higher level than the number of applications lodged in 2014, indicating that the asylum-related inflow in the EU+ remained considerable, EASO said.
In the EU+ as a whole, monthly applications remained stable throughout the year.The monthly number of applications varied from 49 042 in December to 66 443 in March.
A seasonal trend, with higher numbers of applications over the summer, was less visible than in the previous three years. The stable trend at EU+ level, however, conceals stark variations at a country level, EASO said.
About 55 000 applications, or eight per cent of the total, were repeated applications by people who had already lodged an application previously in the same EU+ country.
At least 3.5 per cent of all applications concerned claimed unaccompanied minors.
Syria was the most common country of origin of applicants for the fifth consecutive year, with more than 98 000 applications.
Despite a considerable decrease compared to 2016, twice as many Syrians lodged an application for international protection in the EU+ as any other citizenship.
Iraqi, Afghan and Nigerian nationals each lodged more than 40 000 applications in 2017. These four main countries of origin together constituted one in three applications throughout the EU+ in 2017.
The top 10 countries of origin also included Pakistan, Eritrea, Albania, Bangladesh, Guinea and Iran. Of these 10 citizenships, only Bangladeshi and Guinean citizens lodged more applications in the EU+ in 2017 than in 2016.
In 2017, EU+ countries issued 981 615 decisions at first instance, about 13 per cent fewer than in 2016.
EASO said that despite the decrease, this was the second highest number of first instance decisions ever issued at a European level since data collection began in 2008.
In the EU+ as a whole, 40 per cent of all decisions in first instance were positive. This recognition rate was 17 percentage points lower than in 2016, a decrease which reflects the combined effect of a higher number of decisions issued on cases with relatively lower recognition rates (such as Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan) and the concurrent decrease in the number of decisions issued to Syrian and Eritrean nationals, which are characterised by higher recognition rates.
At the end of 2017, there were 462 532 applications awaiting a decision in first instance.This is half the number of cases that were pending at the end of 2016 as a result of more first-instance decisions being issued in 2017 than asylum applications lodged. This decrease was reflected in most EU+ countries, EASO said.
(Photo, of the Kara Tepe refugee camp in Greece in June 2016: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)