The number of asylum applications in European Union countries in 2018 was 10 per cent lower than in 2017, dropping for the third year in a row and reaching a level similar to that of the pre-crisis year 2014, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) said in a report released on February 13.
In 2018, 634 700 asylum applications were recorded in EU member states, Norway and Switzerland, the report said.
The decrease registered in 2018 follows a significant 44 per cent decline in applications in 2017 over the previous year.
EASO’s data also show that the number of pending first instance asylum cases has decreased by almost 50 per cent when compared to its peak in autumn 2016.
Data shows a lower recognition rate of applications (34 per cent compared to 40 per cent in 2017) and pending cases at less than half of the peak recorded in autumn 2016.
While overall applications continued to fall in 2018, citizens from Iran, Turkey, and several visa-liberalised countries lodged more applications than in 2017.
Syria remained the top country of origin for applicants, but with 25 per cent fewer applications than in the previous year. More than one-in-10 of all applicants was a Syrian national, compared to 2015-2016, when Syrians made up more than one-in-four applicants. Afghanistan and Iraq completed the top three countries of origin in 2018.
Despite the overall decrease in applications, several citizenships lodged more applications than in the previous year, EASO said.
Georgian, Turkish and Venezuelan applicants increased for the second year in a row. Large increases also took place in 2018 for applicants from Colombia, Palestine, and Iran.
In 2018, close to a fifth of all applications were lodged by nationals from countries exempt from visa requirements to enter the Schengen Area, including Venezuelans, Colombians, Georgians. This was a much higher share than in previous years.
EU+ countries jointly issued 593 500 first-instance decisions, 40 per cent fewer than in 2017, but still considerably more than during the pre-crisis period.
One in three decisions made in 2018 was positive, granting either refugee status or subsidiary protection. This compares to a recognition rate of 40 per cent in 2017. Nationals of Syria, Yemen and Eritrea had the highest recognition rates, whereas the lowest shares of positive decisions were for Georgians and Gambians.
The number of applications lodged and awaiting a decision in first-instance continued to decline, but only modestly, EASO said.
Only about 26 500 fewer cases were pending at the end of 2018 than at the end of 2017. The stock of pending cases reached 448 300 at the end of 2018, compared to autumn 2016 when it exceeded the one-million mark.
(Archive photo: UNHCR)