BRUSSELS: Asylum requests in the EU dropped 31 per cent in 2020, to their lowest level in eight years, as would-be refugees ran up against coronavirus travel restrictions, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) said on Thursday.
The EU agency said that the number of requests made to the 27 member countries plus affiliated nations Norway and Switzerland last year came to 461,300, compared to 671,200 in 2019.
That was “down to the lowest levels since 2013, largely as a result of emergency travel restrictions” imposed by governments to slow the spread of the coronavirus across borders, it said. The European Union has severely restricted arrivals from outside the bloc, and several member states have also ordered filtering measures along borders with fellow EU countries, cutting off or reducing several refugee immigration channels.
That has had an effect on asylum-seekers entering the bloc, most of whom come from Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Colombia and Iraq. Almost all nationalities lodged fewer applications. Only those from Comoros, Belarus, Cuba and Brazil showed increases over 2019.
EASO said four per cent of the requests received last year were in the names of unaccompanied minors, an increase of one percentage point over the previous year. Despite the pandemic, national authorities processing new asylum requests have done so at roughly “the same level” as in 2019, allowing them to partly clear around 17 per cent of a backlog—though 412,600 cases were still pending.
Overall, EU member states recognised 32 per cent of requests as genuine refugee cases, a proportion that has remained stable over previous years.
Syrians, Eritreans and Yemenis overwhelmingly had their asylum requests approved, while only a tiny proportion—three percent or less—of those lodged by Colombians and Venezuelans succeeded.