EU asylum requests jump 28 per cent in first half of 2023

Official figures show 519,000 applications made between January and June, with highest number from Syrians and Afghans

Migrants crowded on a boat off the Greek island of Karpathos. The EU is on track to receive more than one million asylum seekers this year. AFP
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The number of migrants lodging asylum applications in the EU jumped 28 per cent in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2022, official figures released Tuesday showed.

Between January and the end of June, 519,000 requests were made in the 27-nation bloc and associated countries Switzerland and Norway, the European Union Agency for Asylum said.

That puts the EU on track to receive more than one million asylum seekers this year – the biggest number since 2015 and 2016 when it saw a huge influx, mainly Syrians fleeing the war in their country.

In 2015, the bloc received 1.35 million asylum requests, followed by 1.25 million applications in 2016.

Numbers dropped in 2017, after the EU did a deal with Turkey to have it clamp down on migrant border crossings, and during the height of the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021 when travel restrictions were in place.

Numbers have since rebounded, with 2022 seeing a 53 per cent rise in applications, putting many EU countries “under pressure”, the EUAA said.

Figures in the first half of 2023 remain slightly lower than in the first half of 2016, when they reached 633,184.

Accommodation and support are stretched thin in many cases as several EU countries are hosting four million Ukrainian refugees. They benefit from a protection status separate from asylum because of Russia's war on their country.

Syrians continued this year to lodge the most applications for asylum in the EU, with 67,000 applications – a number up by nearly 50 per cent compared to the same period in 2022.

The next main nationalities seeking asylum in Europe are people from Afghanistan, Venezuela, Turkey, Colombia, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Germany, which took in most of the Syrian refugees in 2015-2016, continues to be the top EU destination for asylum seekers, principally those from Syria and Afghanistan.

Germany received 62 per cent of all asylum applications by Syrians in the EU in the first half of 2023.

Syrians also continue to be granted international protection at a rate of around 95 per cent and Afghans at around 58 per cent.

Syrians and Afghans account for nearly a quarter of asylum applications received so far this year.

Spain was the main destination for Venezuelan asylum seekers, who tended to be granted humanitarian visas rather than asylum status where their cases warranted protection.

Overall, 41 per cent of applicants received either refugee status or another form of protection allowing them to stay, but there were very different outcomes associated with different nationalities.

Turkish applicants were among those who were the least likely to receive international protection, down to 28 per cent in the first half of 2023 from 54 per cent in 2019.

The EUAA said the numbers of Russians and Iranians being granted protection in Europe has increased compared to recent previous years.

It added that the first half of 2023 also saw a notable uptake in asylum applications from Ivorian and Guinea nationals in the EU. Taken together, they still only accounted for 3.5 per cent of the overall figure.

The recent increase has taken place in Italy, and not in France, as was the case in the past.

Updated: September 05, 2023, 9:21 AM