Latest Asylum Trends

March 2020

Latest Asylum Trends

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.

Reference month:   Citizenship:   

 
 
 
 
 

Source: EASO EPS, March 2018 – March 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. 

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

  • Some 61 134 applications were lodged in February 2020, up by 14 % compared to the same time a year ago.
  • Applications continued at high levels and above the monthly average numbers of the last three years.
  • The COVID-19 outbreak lead to severe restrictions in most EU+ countries, which resulted in a massive drop in asylum applications in March (down to 34 737).
  • In February, there were more than ten times as many applications for asylum than there were detections at the EU+ external border. This discrepancy continues to increase, driven by far fewer detections at the border.
  • Syrians and Afghans continued to lodge the most applications for asylum, as well as Venezuelans and Colombians. In fact, these four citizenships accounted for 38 % of all applications lodged in the EU+ overall.
  • Unusually high numbers of applications were lodged by Cubans and Mauritanians in February.
  • Some 855 645 cases were awaiting decisions at all instances at the end of January 2020.
  • Some 485 500 were pending at first instance at the end of March, some 5 700 fewer than in February.
  • In the first quarter of 2020 as a whole, the share of positive decisions was 28 %, decreasing for a fourth quarter in a row. Two-thirds of positive decisions granted refugee status.
  • The highest recognition rates were, as previously, for Syrians (80 %) and Eritreans (79 %), and the lowest for applicants from Georgia (1 %), Albania and Venezuela (3 % each), among others but this does not include humanitarian protection which was granted by some countries.
 

 

EU+ picture: in early 2020, just before the COVID-19 outbreak, applications were increased compared to the year before but then in March applications dropped massively. Decision-making did not drop to the same extent, such that the upward trend in pending cases at first instance stopped.

The first two months of the year revealed persistently high levels of asylum applications.1 In January, more than 65 300 asylum applications were lodged, almost back to the recent peak of October 2019 (66 600); in February, there were more than 61 100 applications, despite it being a short month plus some data were missing. Thus, before the COVID-19 outbreak, asylum trends were at the highest point for the past two years (Fig. 1). Asylum applications have become increasingly concentrated in a limited number of EU+ countries, with the top four countries receiving more than three quarters of all applications lodged. As typically happens over the winter months, detections of illegal border-crossing (IBCs) at the EU+ external borders continued to decrease, on a downward trend since October 2019. There continued to be many more applications for international protection than detections at the EU+ external border. In fact, in February there were ten times as many applications than detections, up from six times as many in January.

In March, just 34 737 applications were lodged in the EU+, dropping by almost a half from February. Asylum authorities were affected to different extents across the EU+ by the COVID-19 outbreak, mostly depending on the impact of the virus within the single countries plus the extent of the restrictive measures implemented. As such, trends for March are not truly indicative of the asylum picture in EU+ countries and will not be analysed in depth in this update. It is unclear to what extent is a backlog in lodgings accumulating in EU+ countries, but asylum trends will reasonably resume after the lifting of the current restrictions.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, applications were up by 16 % from the same period in 2019 (January-February) but applications in Q1 (161 563) were reduced compared to 2019 because of emergency measures that came into force in mid-March. As is usually the case, one in every ten applications lodged in February (and one in every eleven in March) was repeated – i.e. lodged by third-country nationals having already received a negative decision on a previous application, and approximately 3 % of all applications were lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs).

Despite the reduced level of asylum activities, more first-instance decisions were still issued in the first quarter of 2020 (144 114) compared to 2019 (136 302). For example, in January (51 126) more decisions were issued since the beginning of 2018; followed by a dip in the shorter month of February (46 671). Importantly, in March despite the emergency measures in place, decision making across the EU+ (46 317) remained in line with February, compared with far fewer applications being lodged. As a result, in March for the first time in about nine months the number of cases closures (decisions, cases withdrawn or otherwise closed) exceeded the number applications lodged.

As a result, the number of applications awaiting a decision at first instance (with asylum authorities) did not increase, as was mostly the case in the previous two quarters. At the end of March, 485 478 cases were awaiting a decision at first instance (some 5 700 fewer than in February).2 Moreover, at the end of January 2020, there were some 855 645 cases pending at all instances (also including appeals). Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that somewhat more than half of all cases were pending at first instance with asylum authorities, whereas the remainder were awaiting a decision in appeal/review.3

The overall recognition rate for EU-regulated types of protection has been decreasing since for the last year or so.4  For instance, in February, the share of positive decisions was lower (27 %) than in most months of 2019. The recognition rate increased in March (30 %) but this might have been affected by changes in asylum activities due to the COVID-19 outbreak. From the wider perspective, the recognition rate for decisions issued in Q1 2020 was 28 %, down from 31 % in the previous quarter. A year ago, in Q1 2019, the share of positive decisions was higher at 35 %. It is important to note that the recognition rate is determined by the cases that are decided upon, rather than applications lodged during the same period.

 

Applications lodged by top citizenships

In the first two months of 2020, Syrians (14 441) and Afghans (13 245) continued to lodge the most applications in the EU+, accounting for more than a fifth of all applications. Similar to the majority of citizenships, they sought international protection more often in January than February; the decline was sharper for Syrians (-19 %), who lodged the least applications since October last year. Unusually, Colombians (10 155) lodged more applications than Venezuelans (10 098), a considerable development. Other citizenships applying for asylum in significant numbers included also Iraqis, Pakistanis, Turks, Nigerians, Georgians, and Somalis. Of these, only Pakistanis (+10 %) and Bangladeshi (+5 %) lodged more applications in February than January, whereas for Nigerians numbers remained stable at just above 1 600 applications.

Among countries lodging fewer applications in absolute terms5, in February, nationals of Cuba (290) and Mauritania (257) lodged the most since at least 2014, and Senegal (563) since the spring of 2018. Fewer applications were lodged by most Northern African nationals (Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans) with the exception of Egyptians (578) who lodged (nearly) the most applications since the start of the EPS data exchange in February. Salvadorians (939) continued to apply in higher numbers for the third consecutive month, as well as Peruvians who lodged more than 1 000 applications for the second successive month. Applications lodged by most visa-free Western Balkan and Eastern Partnership nationals (Moldovans, North Macedonians and Kosovars) dropped to summer 2019 levels, except for Ukrainians (618 or +22 % compared to January 2020).

More than a fifth of all repeated applications were lodged by Nigerians, Afghans, and Iraqis. Citizens of Western Balkan and Eastern Partnership countries continued to have the highest share of repeated applications (Serbia, North Macedonia, Russia, Kosovo, Moldova, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, more than 20 % each), probably related to the low recognition rates of these nationals.

Almost 60 % of all applications lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs) were lodged by Syrians, Pakistanis, Venezuelans and Somalis. Concentration of UAMs among Egyptians increased to 12 % in February (from 9 % in January) and remained at around 7 % among Afghans.

 
 

Focus on relevant citizenships

Syria - In February 2020, applications lodged by Syrians decreased to some 6 460, compared to almost 8 000 in January. Still, Syrians remained the top citizenship of origin, lodging around one in 10 applications in the EU+ overall. In March, just some 4 200 applications were lodged by Syrians.

The number of first-instance decisions (5 904) issued to Syrian nationals was slightly above January levels (+5 %). In March, however, they were issued the most decisions (7 476), such that the outflow (case closures) was far more than the inflow (applications lodged), after the opposite occurred for several months in a row. Thus, at the end of March there was a small decrease in the number of cases awaiting a decision at first instance (50 220, down by some 2 900), previously increasing for seven consecutive months.

Around 81 % of Syrians were granted some form of international protection in the first quarter of 2020. This number was slightly lower than the recognition rate in the previous quarter (84 %), but still the highest among all citizenships applying for asylum in the EU+.

Afghanistan - Afghans, the second most common citizenship of asylum applicants in the EU+, lodged 6 364 applications in February, almost on par with Syrians. Despite the slight drop compared to the previous month, since October 2019, Afghans have been lodging more than 6 000 applications each month, well above the monthly levels recorded from end of 2016 onwards. Applications by Afghans dropped massively (to just some 2 500) in March.

Some 3 079 decisions at first instance were issued for Afghans, up by 12 % compared to January. The gap between inflows and outflows remained wide, resulting in a continuously increasing backlog (standing at some 53 308 cases), a pattern seen since more than a year. In March, similar to several other citizenships, the situation reversed, with far more case closures than applications lodged. At the end of March, some 52 166 Afghan nationals were awaiting a decision at first instance.

The EU+ recognition rate for decisions issued to Afghan applicants dropped to 46 % in the first quarter of 2020, lower than in the previous three months (50 %).

Venezuela – In February, Venezuelans lodged 5 085 applications. This was the third time they lodged more than 5 000 applications since the start of EPS data exchange. Thus, Venezuelans returned to rank third among the citizenship applying for asylum.

However, following the peak in first instance decisions issued for Venezuelans in January, the output dropped by 31 % to 6 489 decisions in February, a figure still among the highest numbers recorded so far and higher than the number of decisions issued to Syrians and Afghans during the same period. The number of decisions issued to Venezuelans further dropped in March (4 715). At the end of March, there were some 19 300 Venezuelan cases pending at first instance.

The recognition rate for Venezuelans stood at 2 % in the first quarter of 2020. However, this recognition rate does not include humanitarian protection, usually granted to Venezuelans instead of refugee status or subsidiary protection is (i.e. in more than 90 % of Venezuelans in 2019).6

 


First instance decisions in top citizenships

First instance decisions issued to Venezuelans and Colombians in February dropped by 31 % and 65 % respectively compared to the previous month. Yet, Colombians were issued a record number of decisions in March (almost 5 700). Decisions issued for Nigerians continued to decline since May 2019, reaching in February the lowest number recorded in the last four years.


EU+ recognition rates in top citizenships

Syrians (80 %) and Eritreans (79 %) continued to have the highest recognition rates also in February. As previously, on the other side of the spectrum stood mostly visa-free citizenships. Among the top 10 countries receiving most decisions, only around 3 % of Venezuelans and Albanians, and 1 % of Georgians were granted protection status. Among citizenships receiving the most decisions in February, recognition rates continued to be very low for Moldovans (1 %), Serbians (3 %) and Kosovars (6 %), whereas no positive decisions were issued for North Macedonians. Recognition rates among nationals of El Salvador (43 %) rose up to 2019 levels though, after a decrease recorded during the last months. Some 43 % of Turkish applicants were granted an international form of protection (down from 50 % in January).


Pending cases of top citizenships

More than one fifth of pending cases at first-instance in March were for Afghan and Syrian applicants, with more than 50 000 cases each, but both decreasing from February. Colombians became the third citizenship with the most backlog (approximately 35 900), followed by nationals of Pakistan (about 21 000) and Turkey (almost 20 300). These preceded Venezuelans and Iraqis, who had a similar number of pending cases (≅ 19 300). At lower levels of pending cases, it is worth noting that more Cubans were awaiting a first-instance decision (in February they increased by 20 % compared to the previous month), exceeding 2 000 cases for the first time since at least 2014. The backlog of the remaining nationalities with more than 2 000 cases pending fluctuated around the levels recorded in January 2020.

 

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: 29 April 2020



Notes
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[1] Data were missing from October 2019 to March 2020 for one EU+ country. As a result of the exit of the United Kingdom from the EU, asylum data for this country was excluded from the whole reference period.
[2] 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.
[3] 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).
[4] 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.
[5] Analysis is restricted to the top 50 countries lodging the most applications.
[6] First instance decisions on applications by citizenship, EUROSTAT.