Latest Asylum Trends

September 2020

The visualisation below provides an overview of the key indicators regarding the situation of international protection in the EU+ in the past 24 months. The size of the different circles in the countries of origin is proportional to the volume of applications lodged in EU+ countries, the colour of the circle reflects the recognition rate at first instance (blue - high, red - low). The shade of the country reflects the stock of pending cases at the end of the selected year. By clicking on a circle, the evolution of these key indicators for the citizenship selected is displayed in the lower panel. Note that data until the end of 2019 include the United Kingdom (30 EU+ countries), whereas data as of January 2020 exclude the United Kingdom (29 EU+ countries).

Reference month:   Citizenship:   


© EuroGeographics for the administrative boundaries. The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the European Union.1
Source: EASO EPS, August 2018 – August 2020.

Asylum applications include all persons who have lodged or have been included in an application for international protection as a family member in the reporting country during the reporting month. 

EU+ refers to the 27 European Union Member States, plus Norway and Switzerland. However, until the end of 2019 data for the EU+ include also the United Kingdom.

First-instance decisions include all persons covered by decisions issued on granting EU-regulated international protection status (refugee or subsidiary protection) following a first time or repeated application for international protection in the first instance determination process.

Stock of pending cases
includes all cases for which an asylum application has been lodged and are under consideration by the national authority responsible for the first instance determination of the application for international protection (until the first instance decision has been issued) at the end of the reference period (i.e. last day of the reference month). It refers to the “stock” of applications for which decisions in first instance are still pending.

The EU+ recognition rate includes EU-regulated forms of protection (refugee status and subsidiary protection) and excludes national protection forms (humanitarian reasons). It is calculated by dividing the number of positive first-instance decisions (granting refugee status or subsidiary protection) by the total number of decisions issued



Key findings

  • Partial lockdowns, travel bans, and other preventative health measures continue to reduce the mobility of asylum seekers in general and the extent to which they are able to reach the EU+ and lodge asylum applications.
  • Asylum and Reception Authorities have implemented new tools and processes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (link).
  • Almost 42 800 applications for international protection were lodged in September, up by 7 % from August but overall, monthly applications remained at approximately two thirds of pre-COVID-19 levels (January and February).
  • Syrians, Afghans, Colombians, Venezuelans, and Pakistanis lodged the most applications (slightly more than two fifths of all applications in the EU+).
  • Among the top 30 citizenships, Colombians and Peruvians were the only ones recently seeking asylum more often than in 2019.
  • At reasonably low levels, Belarusians nationals were increasingly seeking asylum in the EU+.
  • There continued to be many more applications for asylum than detections of illegal border-crossing at the EU external border, which remained relatively low. 
  • The share of repeated applicants (11 %) was still higher than before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Slightly over 48 000 first-instance decisions were issued in September in the EU+, an increase of 11 % compared to August 2020. Colombians, Syrians, Venezuelans, Afghans, and Iraqis received the most decisions and more than in August 2020.
  • At the same time, at the end of September there were some 415 186 cases pending at first instance only, up by 3 235 cases from August. 
  • The stock of cases pending at first instance was not reduced for any of the nationalities with many open cases (above 5 000), and actually increased by 15% for Venezuelans and Peruvians.
  • The EU+ recognition rate at first instance was 28 %, up by two percentage points from August, but in line with the beginning of the year.


EU+ picture: In September, more people sought asylum in the EU+ than the month before. Still, the number of monthly applications was approximately two thirds of that received before COVID-19. EU+ countries also issued more first-instance decisions compared to the previous month. Overall, the number of pending cases was not reduced, and actually increased for Venezuelans and Peruvians. The backlog for these two citizenships increased by 15 % (for each) from August.

More asylum applications in the EU+ than in August, however still below pre-COVID-19 levels

Partial lockdowns, travel bans, and other preventative health measures continue to reduce the mobility of asylum seekers in general and the extent to which they are able to reach the EU+ and lodge asylum applications. However, such measures are certainly less stringent now than in the second quarter of the year, when even some EU+ asylum services were temporally suspended. Since then, EU+ asylum and reception authorities have adapted and implemented new working procedures in order to stay open and accept new applications while at the same time protecting the health of applicants and case workers alike. 

After a slight decrease in the previous month, in September almost 42 800 applications were lodged in the EU+, up by 7 % from August but in line with July.2 Despite this increase, applications were still considerably lower than the pre-COVID-19 months of January (65 692) and February (61 421). Within the EU+ there were two trends emerging: countries which usually receive few applications were now experiencing increases above and beyond the pre-COVID-19 levels, whereas the ‘main’ receiving countries were receiving fewer applications compared to the beginning of the year. Nearly two thirds of all applications continued to be lodged in just three EU+ countries.

So far in 2020, approximately 337 830 applications were lodged in the EU+, far fewer (- 30 %) than in the same period in 2019. At the same time, there were just 72 500 detections of illegal border-crossing at the EU+ external borders, down by 21 % from the same period last year.3 Thus, irregular migration decreased less sharply than asylum applications but this is likely because applications were already at high and increasing levels, and have been seriously affected by much-reduced regular passenger flows, whereas irregular migration was already somewhat reduced compared to previous years. 

In September, 11 % of all applications continued to be repeated applications, which was lower than in April-June, but still higher than in the first three months of 2020 (between 8 - 9 %).4 Applications lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs) represented 4 %, up by one percentage point from August. 

In September, EU+ countries issued slightly over 48 000 decisions at first instance, the third highest monthly volume of first-instance decisions so far this year (July and January being the other two months with more decisions issued than in September). 

EASO estimates that, at the end of June 2020, there were more than 923 500 cases pending at all instances (also including appeals) in the EU+,5 much lower than in May, (974 700 cases). At the same time, at the end of September there were some 415 186 cases pending at first instance only, up by some 3 235 cases from August. Still, the general trend of the last seven months has shown a reduction in the number of cases open with asylum authorities: for example, back in February, there were almost half a million pending cases. Nevertheless, a parallel trend since February has been a rise of the share of such cases that were awaiting a decision for longer periods. Thus, at the end of September, 70 % of the cases were pending for more than six months, up from just 52 % in February. 

The EU+ recognition rate6 at first instance was 28 % in September, up by two percentage points from August, in line with the beginning of the year (February).  

Citizenships lodging the most applications

In September, Syrians (6 453 or 15 % of the total), Afghans (4 928 or 12 %), Colombians (2 489 or 6 %), and Venezuelans (2 404 or 6 %) lodged the most applications in the EU+ and continued to jointly account for almost two fifths of all applications. Syrians and Afghans sought asylum more often than in August (+ 20 % and + 28 % respectively), whereas Colombians and Venezuelans less frequently (- 25 % and - 33 %). Importantly, among the main citizenships only Colombians were lodging more (+ 18 %) applications this year than last. 

Pakistanis, Turks, Iraqis, Bangladeshis, Somalis, and Nigerians also lodged significant numbers of applications in September, and all more than in August, especially Turks (+ 25 %), Bangladeshis (+ 24 %) and Pakistanis (+ 22 %). At lower levels,7 there were also more applicants from Albania (+ 63 %), Nicaragua (+ 40 %), Iran (+ 35 %), Ukraine (+ 29 %) and Russia (+ 28 %). Meanwhile, after lodging many applications in the previous month – Moldovans and Hondurans sought asylum less frequently in September (- 22 % and - 19 % respectively).

As previously, a high share of applicants from Western Balkan countries lodged repeated applications: among them were North Macedonians (44 %), Serbians (41 %), Albanians (36 %) and Kosovars (35 %). A similar trend characterised also the applicants from Armenia (54 % were repeats), Azerbaijan and Haiti (50 % each), Russia (31 %), Palestine (31 %), and Nigeria (25 %).

Over a half of all self-claimed UAMs were Afghans (39 %) and Syrians (14 %). As previously, the proportion of UAMs was high among Afghan applicants (13 %, - 2 p.p. from August). In addition, Moroccan applicants had a high share of UAMs among them (14 %, + 6 p.p. from August)


Focus on relevant citizenships

Syrians – In September 2020, Syrians lodged 6 453 applications for asylum (15 % of all) up by 20 % compared to August and more or less returned to pre-COVID-19 levels. At the same time, fewer Syrians were detected illegally crossing the EU+ external borders.8

Syrians also received more decisions compared to August (5 672 or + 8 %), also returning to pre-COVID-19 levels. In fact, since July 2020 Syrians have been lodging more applications than decisions issued, following a four-month period (March – June) when the opposite took place.9 At the end of September, 37 380 Syrian cases were awaiting first-instance decisions, similar to August and July, when the downward trend between March and June 2020 was reversed. Still, the Syrian backlog remained below the levels of the pre-COVID-19 period. Since May 2020 slightly more than half of the cases were pending for more than six months
So far in 2020, Syrians had the highest recognition rate among all citizenships applying for asylum in the EU+ (83 %), but there was some variation among the EU+ countries issuing the most decisions on Syrian cases.

Afghans – On a rise for the fifth consecutive month, Afghans lodged some 4 928 applications for international protection in the EU+, up by 28 % compared to August, but still below pre-COVID-19 levels. 

More first-instance decisions were issued to Afghan applicants in September (3 742 or + 26 %). Similarly, many decisions were also issued in April 2020, again as a result of national authorities in several EU+ countries reinforcing decision making while number of applications were low. In September 2020, there were 438 otherwise closed cases, the most for at least two years, and 650 withdrawals, which was 50 % more than in August. The increased outflow has kept the number of Afghan pending cases (some 47 544 at the end of September) relatively stable since May 2020. Still, Afghans remained the nationality with the highest backlog in the EU+.

The EU+ recognition rate for Afghan applicants stood at 58 % in September, remaining at the high levels recorded since June 2020 and above the recognition rate of the first five months of 2020 and of 2019 (44 % and 49 % respectively).

Pakistanis – In September and August 2020, Pakistanis stood fifth among all nationalities lodging applications in the EU+. Pakistanis have lodged increasingly numbers of applications since April 2020, reaching some 1 926 in September (+ 22 % from August), but still slightly below the levels of the pre-COVID-19 months. Most Pakistani applicants sought asylum for the first time in the same EU+ country (nine in every ten applicants).

Some 1 446 first-instance decisions were issued to Pakistanis in September, 100 more than in August but fewer than in July (- 19 %). Since March, Pakistanis have been issued fewer first-instance decisions than during pre-COVID-19 months, and in August and September Pakistanis were issued fewer decisions than the number of applications they lodged. At the same time Pakistanis withdrew more applications (387 in September, the most since late 2019). The downward trend in the backlog recorded after February 2020 stopped in September, when some 19 276 cases were pending at first instance. Still, the Pakistani backlog remained lower than before the pandemic, but the share of the cases pending for longer time increased (around three in every four cases were pending for more than six months since May and up to September). 

The recognition rate for Pakistanis has fluctuated between 5 % and 10 % so far in 2020 and was 8 % in September. These values were slightly lower than the 2019 recognition rate (11 %).


First instance decisions for top citizenships

Over 48 000 first-instance decisions were issued in September 2020, more than a third of which were issued to either Colombian (14 % of all decisions), Syrian (12 %), and Venezuelan (10 %) asylum applications. All top five citizenships with the most decisions issued received more decisions compared to the previous month. Thus, Colombians received nearly 6 900 first-instance decisions in September, which was almost a thousand more than in August. There were more first-instance decisions also on Syrian (5 672 decisions, + 8 %) and Venezuelan applications (4 947, + 19 %). Likewise, Afghans (3 742 decisions, + 26 %) and Iraqis (2 153, + 59 %) received more decisions. From the nationalities with lower volume of first-instance decisions issued, monthly increases were particularly significant for Somalis (893 decisions, + 55 %) and Albanians (798, + 63 %). However, for the latter the number of decisions was still below that issued in the beginning of the year, before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Interestingly, the number of decisions issued to Latin American nationalities other than Colombians and Venezuelans, did not follow the same pattern. For example, the largest monthly drops concerned Hondurans (851 decisions, - 33 %), Peruvians (637, - 36 %), Salvadorians (818, - 15 %) and Nicaraguans (459, - 59 %). Still, such outputs were higher than in the beginning of the year, and the drop can be explained by the unusually high number of first-instance decisions issued in the previous months – in July and August (for Hondurans, Salvadorians, and Nicaraguans) or in August alone (for Peruvians). A similar development occurred for Ukrainian applicants, for whom the decision-making output also dropped significantly (- 59 %) and, likewise, could be explained by a high number of decisions issued in July and August. 

EU+ recognition rates for top citizenships

Among the citizenships of origin receiving most decisions at first instance,10 Eritreans (82 %) continued to have the highest recognition rate in September 2020, followed by Syrians (81 %). Palestinians, (61 %), Somalis (60 %), Afghans (58 %), and Iraqis (56 %) were the other four citizenships with recognition rates above 50 %. Nevertheless, for some of the mentioned citizenships recognition rates in September were considerably higher than during the first nine months of this year. Thus, for example, the overall recognition rates for Palestinians, Afghans and Iraqis so far this year (January – September) were 52 %, 50 % and 41 % respectively.

On the other side of the spectrum were Colombians, with just 2 % of first-instance decisions granting refugee status or subsidiary protection. Venezuelans had a similar EU-regulated recognition rate to that of Colombians, but they are mostly granted humanitarian protection in the countries issuing the majority of decisions. As in the previous months, recognition rates were also low for Georgians, Peruvians (2 % each) and Albanians (4 %). 

Pending cases for top citizenships

First-instance pending cases refer to those that are still being processed with asylum authorities, and do not include those that are open in appeal or review. At the end of September, most pending cases at first instance still belonged to Afghans (47 544 or 11 % of the total cases pending in the EU+), Syrians (37 370 or 9 %) and Pakistanis (19 276 or 5 %).

The backlog remained un-reduced for all the main nationalities with many open cases (i.e. at least 5 000), with the notable exception of Venezuelans and Peruvians, for whom the stock of pending cases increased by 15 % from August. Among the nationalities with fewer pending cases, the monthly increase was particularly significant for Belarusians (633 cases pending in September, + 139 from August). This development coincided with more Belarusians seeking asylum in the EU+ in the last two months. The backlog also increased for nationals of Cuba (+ 15 %), Moldova (+ 11 %), Brazil (+ 13 %).

This page is produced by EASO’s Situational Awareness Unit (SAU) on the basis of monthly data exchanged under the Early Warning and Preparedness System (EPS). The data shared with EASO by the EU+ countries are provisional and unvalidated, and therefore may differ from validated data submitted to Eurostat (according to Regulation (EC) No 862/2007). In line with the dissemination guide on EPS data, EASO cannot publish data disaggregated per EU+ country.

Date of release: 17 November 2020


[1]  The designation "Kosovo" is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence".
[2]  In September, data were available for all 29 EU+ countries. Data for the United Kingdom are excluded from all statistical comparisons. 
[3]  Frontex, Situation at EU external borders – Illegal crossings down in September, 16 October 2020. 
[4]  Repeated application refers to an application for international protection lodged after a final decision has been made on a previous application by the same person in the same reporting country.
[5]  Eurostat, migr_asypenctzm, last update on 12 November 2020, accessed on 12 November 2020. An indication of the cases pending at second and higher instances (i.e. in appeal or review) may be drawn by comparing the number of cases awaiting a decision at first instance (EPS data), with those pending at all instances of the administrative and/or judicial procedure (Eurostat, migr_asypenctzm). In some cases, EPS data on pending cases in appeal/review might be used instead. 
[6]  This recognition rate does not include national forms of protection, which Venezuelans and other nationals are granted in some EU+ countries.
[7]  Among citizenships lodging at least 500 applications in September.
[8]  Frontex data.
[9]  Due to reduced number of applications, national authorities in several EU+ countries reinforced decision making, which resulted in a reduced backlog.
[10]  Only citizenships receiving at least 500 decisions (accounting for 79 % of the EU+ output) in September are considered.