Applications for asylum in the EU+ dropped by almost half in March 2020 as Covid-19 containment measures took effect, following persistently high levels of applications in the first two months of the year, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) said on April 30.
The EU+ is composed of the EU member states plus Norway and Switzerland.
Figures released by EASO show that in March, just 34 737 applications were lodged in the EU+, dropping by 43 per cent from February. Asylum authorities were affected to different extents across the EU+ by the Covid-19 outbreak, both with regard to the activities of asylum systems themselves, as well as due to border restrictions.
Just before the Covid-19 outbreak in Europe, applications had increased compared to the same period in 2019 (+16 per cent over January-February 2019), with 65 300 applications lodged in January and 61 100 in February.
“Thus, March figures are not truly indicative of asylum-related migration trends towards the EU+, but are rather the result of Covid-19 containment measures,” EASO said.
On April 16, the European Commission, with input from EASO, presented guidance on implementing EU rules on asylum and return procedures. The guidance provides advice to member states on ways to ensure the continuity of asylum procedures within the context of the challenging Covid-19 situation.
Over the past months, asylum applications have become increasingly concentrated to a limited number of EU+ member states, with the top four countries receiving more than three quarters of all applications lodged, EASO said.
As is usually the case, one in every 10 applications lodged in February (and one in every 11 in March) was repeated, meaning lodged by applicants who already received a negative decision on a previous application, while about three per cent of all applications were lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors, the organisation said.
(Archive photo: UNHCR)
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