Latest Asylum Trends

Latest asylum trends – May 2021

The visualisation below provides an overview of the key indicators regarding the situation of international protection in the EU+ in the past 25 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 the visualization below includes data for the United Kingdom (30 EU+ countries) until the end of 2019, whereas it excludes data for the United Kingdom as of January 2020 (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, May 2019 – May 2021.

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 at 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 37 800 applications for international protection were lodged in the EU+ in May 2021, stable from April but lower than in preceding months.
  • Syrians, Afghans and Pakistanis lodged the most applications for international protection overall. Applications by Afghans increased for the third consecutive month, growing by a third from February 2021.
  • Georgia joined the 10 main origin countries for the first time in more than a year. Mali remained one of the 10 main origin countries for the second month in a row. 
  • West Africans lodged as many applications as at the peak of March 2021. 
  • After Syrians, nationals of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria have most often been detected illegally crossing the EU external border in the past 12 months. However, Moroccans, Algerians and Tunisians lodged fewer asylum applications than the number of detected illegal border-crossings would suggest. 
  • Applications by self-claimed unaccompanied minors were stable and represented 4 % of the EU+ total, as in April. Bangladeshis became the third largest group of unaccompanied minors, after Afghans and Syrians.
  • EU+ asylum authorities issued 41 500 first instance decisions in May, close to a fifth fewer than in April due to a strong decline in decisions on repeated applications. About 40 % of all decisions were issued to Syrians, Afghans, Colombians, Venezuelans and Pakistanis.
  • The EU+ recognition rate increased to 32 % in May, thereby returning to the level of 2020. Almost two out of three positive decisions granted refugee status, while the remainder granted subsidiary protection.
  • Among the nationalities receiving the most decisions, recognition rates were the highest for Eritreans (80 %), Syrians (75 %) and Somalis (59 %). After being temporarily low due to an influx of repeated applications, the recognition rate for Syrians began approaching 2020 levels.
  • In total, about 792 800 cases were pending in the EU+ at the end of April (all instances). 
  • Some 361 300 cases were pending at first instance at the end of May, declining for the fourth consecutive month. A comparatively low backlog was last reached in 2014. Two thirds of all first instance cases had been pending for more than six months.


Mali and Georgia among the main countries of origin

In May 2021, EU+ countries received some 37 800 applications for international protection.2 The total number of applications remained close to the level in April (+ 3 %) but was somewhat lower than in preceding months. Applications in May were mostly lodged by Syrians (6 300), Afghans (5 100), Pakistanis (1 700), Iraqis (1 400) and Nigerians (1 300), followed by Turks, Bangladeshis and Somalis (about 1 200 applications each). Afghans lodged more applications for the third consecutive month (+ 33 % from February 2021) – the most so far this year (see country focus), which was also the case for Bangladeshis. In contrast, Syrians continued to lodge fewer applications, especially repeated applications.

With over 900 applications, Mali remained one of the 10 main origin countries in May, after appearing in the top 10 in April for the first time in seven years. Georgia (900) joined the 10 main origin countries in May, for the first time in more than a year. Georgia was the only country in this group whose citizens do not need a visa to enter the EU. Overall, however, nationals of such visa-liberalised countries continued to lodge fewer applications and only accounted for 12 % of total applications, the lowest share in a year. The decline continued mainly due to rapidly falling applications by Ukrainians (- 46 % from April and - 65 % from February). In addition, citizens of several Latin American nationalities again lodged significantly fewer applications in May, notably Venezuelans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans. In contrast to many Latin Americans, applications by Haitians have tended to increase lately and were especially high in May (see country focus).

West Africans3 lodged 5 500 applications in May, returning to the peak value that occurred in March 2021. While Nigerians (1 300) remained by far the largest group among West Africans, the increase was largely due to Senegalese (800) who lodged about a third more applications in May than in April (see country focus). In addition, Ghanaians (200) lodged the most applications in more than a year. The relatively high number of asylum applications by West Africans partly reflects increased irregular migration on the Western African route towards the Canary Islands.

Applications by self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs) were stable in May at about 1 500, remaining at 4 % of all asylum applications in the EU+. As in previous months, more than two fifths of all UAMs in May were from Afghanistan (680), followed at a distance by Syrians (190). UAMs from Bangladesh became the third largest group (97 applications in May), after almost doubling compared to January 2021. In contrast, Moroccan UAMs lodged roughly half as many applications compared to the beginning of the year.

Many arrivals from the Maghreb but few asylum applications  

Notwithstanding visa-free travellers, the nationalities mostly detected illegally crossing the EU external border also lodge the most applications for asylum. In fact, their asylum applications typically exceed detections at the border. Between May 2020 and April 2021, Afghans, Pakistanis and Somalis lodged first-time asylum applications that outnumbered border detections by a factor of around 6, and even more so for Iraqis (7.3) and Nigerians (8.5).

However, this was not the case for three important origin countries in the Maghreb: between May 2020 and April 2021, many Moroccans (18 800), Tunisians (15 700) and Algerians (14 000) were detected at EU external borders4 but these citizenships lodged far fewer asylum applications in the EU+ than expected given the number of detected illegal border-crossings (0.4, 0.2 and 0.5 applications for every detection at the border, respectively).5 Hence, it appears that many Moroccans, Tunisians and Algerians enter the EU+ illegally and then chose not to apply for asylum. This could be because protection needs are not widespread, an explanation that is supported by recognition rates being low for these citizenships (see below).


Focus on relevant countries of origin of applicants

Afghanistan – Afghans have consistently lodged high numbers of asylum applications in the EU+ since 2018, usually only exceeded by Syrians. In May 2021, Afghans lodged increasing numbers of applications for the third consecutive month to some 5 100, the most in half a year and representing 13 % of all applications in the EU+. This comes after reports of increasing violence in Afghanistan in the first quarter of the year,6 which is likely to be further exacerbated after the recent withdrawal of foreign troops,7 and despite persistent travel restrictions for third countries in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 9 % of Afghan applications in May were repeated, somewhat fewer than in the previous three months. About 13 % of Afghan applications were lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors. Afghan UAMs have consistently made up about two fifths or more of all UAM applications in the EU+ since the beginning of 2021, by far the most of any nationality. 

In May, Afghans withdrew fewer applications (677) compared to the unusually high levels in March (2 395) and April (1 307), resulting in the lowest number since November 2020. As in previous months, almost all of these were implicitly withdrawn (where this information was available). Implicit withdrawals are associated with secondary movements towards other EU+ countries, as they occur when authorities cannot locate the applicant and conclude that they have abandoned the procedure. Similarly, Afghans also had the fewest cases that were otherwise closed so far in 2021, most of which were closed because of Dublin procedures, also associated with secondary movements between EU+ countries. Overall, Afghans accounted for most withdrawals and most otherwise closed cases out of all nationalities since 2020.

Some 4 000 first instance decisions were issued to Afghans in May 2021, almost the same number as in the previous month. The first instance recognition rate so far in 2021 was 54 %, however this varied widely among the main EU+ countries issuing decisions. In May 2021, just under 41 000 Afghan cases were pending at first instance in the EU+, a decrease for the seventh consecutive month. About two thirds of these have been pending for longer than six months.

Senegal – After increasing for the fifth month in a row, Senegalese nationals lodged some 800 asylum applications in the EU+ in May 2021, almost a third above the number in April and the most since 2017. Just over one in 10 Senegalese applications was repeated, somewhat fewer than in the previous months. Only a very small number of applications were lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors (1 %), in line with previous periods.

Some 311 first instance decisions were issued to Senegalese applicants in May 2021, relatively stable compared to the previous two months. So far in 2021, the recognition rate for Senegalese applicants was 11 %, in line with previous periods. Withdrawals and otherwise closed cases for Senegalese citizens have remained relatively low, fluctuating between 20 and 25 each month since the beginning of the year for the former, and even fewer for the latter. Despite new asylum applications clearly outpacing case closures at first instance in recent months, Senegalese cases pending at first instance have followed a general downward trend since the beginning of the pandemic: from 3 900 in March 2020 to 2 700 in May 2021. However, cases pending for less than six months have recently increased: from 700 in January 2021 to 900 at the end of May.

Haiti – With 556 applications in the EU+ in May 2021, Haitians lodged the most applications since 2017. However, there have been strong fluctuations from one month to another. For example, in the last six months, the number of asylum applications fluctuated between 219 and 556. So far this year, Haitians had relatively high levels of repeated applications (almost one in five), but no self-claimed unaccompanied minors were registered among Haitian applicants. It remains to be seen whether the reported rise in gang violence8 and the aftermath of the assassination of the Haitian president9 will lead to further increases in the number of asylum applications. 

In May 2021, some 260 first instance decisions were issued to Haitians, the fewest so far this year. The number of decisions fluctuated between 264 and 375 in the first five months of 2021, still below the level in the months before the pandemic. The recognition rate for Haitian nationals so far this year was 17 %, considerably higher than in the previous year (10 %). The large number of asylum applications compared to first instance decisions in the last month seems to have led to a strong increase in pending cases. At the end of May 2021, 1 679 Haitian cases were pending at first instance, up by a fifth from April and the most since 2017.


Fall in first instance decisions due to fewer repeated applications  

Some 41 500 first instance decisions were issued by EU+ asylum authorities in May 2021,10 substantially fewer (- 17 %) than in April. The decrease reflected far fewer first instance decisions issued on repeated applications (- 59 %), which Syrians had lodged in large numbers during the preceding months. Despite the decline, first instance decisions still exceeded applications. Pakistanis received more decisions for the fourth successive month (1 900 in May). Together with Syrians (6 400 decisions), Afghans (4 000), Colombians (3 100) and Venezuelans (1 900), they accounted for about two fifths of all first instance decisions. 

After a peak in March 2021 (7 200), the number of withdrawn applications fell to 3 100 in May. This was driven by fewer withdrawn applications by Afghans, which roughly halved in April and again in May. Otherwise closed cases (2 300, mainly in Dublin procedures) also decreased, primarily due to fewer cases that involved Afghans. Overall, both withdrawn applications and otherwise closed cases were the lowest since mid-2020.

Return of the EU+ recognition rate to 2020 levels  

In March and April, the EU+ recognition rate had been only 27 % because unusually high numbers of first instance decisions were issued on repeated applications, with very low recognition rates. As far fewer decisions concerned repeated applications in May, the EU+ recognition increased to 32 %, the same level as in 2020 overall. For the EU+ recognition rate, only decisions that granted refugee status and subsidiary protection are considered positive, in contrast to decisions granting humanitarian protection under national law. Almost two thirds of all positive decisions in May granted refugee status, while the remainder granted subsidiary protection. 

Among nationalities receiving at least 200 decisions in May, recognition rates were the highest for Eritreans (80 %), Syrians (75 %), and Somalis (59 %). The recognition rate for Syrians increased strongly compared to March and April but was still below the levels in previous years, when it had normally exceeded 80 %. While the vast majority of positive decisions issued to Eritreans granted refugee status, only about three fifths of the positive decisions granted this to Syrians and Somalis. Recognition rates were comparatively low for countries in the Maghreb: Morocco (12 %), Tunisia (13 %) and Algeria (6 %).

Lowest backlog at first instance since 2014

Based on the latest available data (April 2021), about 792 800 cases were pending at all instances11 in the EU+, down from 847 800 cases at the end of January 2021. Back in April 2020, almost one million cases were awaiting decisions.  Since then, EU+ countries have reduced the backlog by 202 000 (- 20 %), despite the COVID-19 challenges. Cases pending at first instance – those that are still being processed by asylum authorities, not including those that are open in appeal or review (second and higher instances) – fell by more than 100 000 between April 2020 and April 2021 (- 22 %), declining in line with total pending cases.12

At the end of May 2021, about 361 300 cases were still pending at first instance,13  down by approximately 2 % from April. Similarly low levels of the backlog at first instance last occurred in 2014, while in 2016 the backlog had briefly exceeded one million cases at first instance alone. Cases pending for more than six months accounted for two thirds of all first instance cases at the end of May, as in previous months. One third of all cases still pending at first instance concerned Syrians, Afghans, Pakistanis or Eritreans. Compared to May last year, virtually only pending cases involving Syrians (+ 21 %), Somalis (+ 13 %) and Moroccans (+ 8 %) have increased significantly, while pending cases declined substantially for numerous nationalities and especially strongly for Colombians (- 70 %), Venezuelans and Salvadorans (both - 60 %).


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 (EU) 2020/851 amending Regulation (EC) 862/2007). In line with the dissemination guide on EPS data, EASO cannot publish data disaggregated per EU+ country.

Date of release: 22 July 2021


[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]    Data on one EU+ country were missing for April and May 2021. All values larger than 100 are rounded.
[3]    According to the United Nations Population Division, West Africa includes the following countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
[4]   Preliminary data offered by Frontex refer to the number of detections of irregular border crossing at the external borders of the EU. The same person may attempt to cross the border several times in different locations at the external border, and thus will be counted more than once. See Frontex, Detections of illegal border-crossings statistics, last updated 2 July 2021.
[5]   The results remain essentially the same when applications from June 2020 - May 2021 are considered instead of May 2020 - April 2021, to allow for delays in lodging an asylum application after entry.

[6]   UNHCR, UNHCR warns of imminent humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, 13 July 2021.
[7]   UN News, Afghanistan: 270,000 newly displaced this year, warns UNHCR, 13 July 2021.
[8]   UN News, Unprecedented rise in gang violence across Haiti’s capital displaces thousands, 10 June 2021.
[9]   OCHA, Haiti: Political instability and insecurity. Situation Report No. 5, 14 July 2021.
[10]  Data on one EU+ country were missing for April and May 2021.
[11]  A Eurostat data on pending cases at all instances in April 2021 were available for 28 EU+ countries. EASO EPS data on pending cases at first instance in April and May 2021 were available for 28 EU+ countries. March values were used for the missing country. 
[12]  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.
 [13] This figure for cases pending at first instance includes an imputation for pending cases in one EU+ country. Based only on the 28 EU+ countries reporting in May, the figure is 357 200.