The trend of a significant decrease in the number of asylum applications in the EU is continuing in 2018, according to figures published on June 18 by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
In the first four months of 2018, about 197 000 people asked for asylum in the EU, Norway and Switzerland, a lower level than during the same period in each of the last three years.
EASO said that provisional data for January to April 2018 showed that application levels had stabilised at an average of less than 50 000 a month.
The year 2017 had already seen a significant decrease with a total of 728 470 arrivals throughout the year, a 44 per cent decrease compared to 2016. In 2018, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan continued to be the main countries of origin of applicants.
Throughout 2017, migratory pressure at the EU external borders remained high, but decreased for a second consecutive year, mostly on the eastern and central Mediterranean routes, whereas there was an unprecedented upsurge on the western Mediterranean route, EASO said.
While overall the number of asylum applications registered in 2017 dropped, some countries still noted considerable increases. Syria (15 per cent), Iraq (7 per cent) and Afghanistan (7 per cent) remained the top three countries of origin of applicants in the EU+. These were followed by Nigeria, Pakistan, Eritrea, Albania, Bangladesh, Guinea and Iran.
With respect to the number of pending cases, at the end of 2017 there were 954 100 applications awaiting a final decision, which represents a decrease of 16 per cent over the end of 2016. This reflects the lower number of applications and suggesting greater efficiency in the asylum systems of EU countries and the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).
At the same time, the number of cases awaiting a decision at second or higher instance (appeal) more than doubled since the end of 2016, indicating a clear shift in case processing towards second instance, EASO said.
Of all the first instance decisions issued in 2017, nearly 50 per cent (462 355 out of 996 685 decisions) were positive. This recognition rate was 14 percentage points lower than in 2016. While the overall number of decisions decreased by 13 per cent over 2016, reflecting a lower number of applications lodged, the amount of negative decisions actually increased from 449 910 in 2016 to 534 330 in 2017.
With regard to positive decisions, in 2017 there was a distinct decrease in the share of decisions granting refugee status (down to 50 per cent, from 55 per cent in 2016) or subsidiary protection (34 per cent, from 37 per cent), while there was a parallel increase in the proportion of those granting humanitarian protection (15 per cent, up from eight per cent).
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 (two countries whose citizens are exempt from visa requirements when travelling to the Schengen Area), sought international protection more frequently than in 2017, increasing by 75 per cent and 133 per cent, respectively.
The number of applicants from other countries of origin, including Iraq and Turkey, remained broadly stable with 2017, EASO said.
(Photo, taken at the Kara Tepe refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos in 2016: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)