European Union countries plus Norway and Switzerland saw a 10 percent drop in international protection requests in 2018 compared with 2017. The EU border agency, Frontex, also says arrivals via the Central Mediterranean route in January were 73 percent down on the previous month.
Countries of the European Union, plus Norway and Switzerland, registered about 634,700 requests for international protection in 2018, a 10 percent decrease on 2017 figures, according to a report by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). It said this was the third consecutive year that applications decreased following the migration crisis of 2015.
Overall, the numbers have returned to pre-crisis levels from 2014, when EU+ countries saw 641,000 requests for international protection.
The main nationalities
The EASO report said Syria remained the top country of origin for applicants, but with 25 percent fewer applications than in the previous year. Over one in 10 applicants was a Syrian national, compared with 2015-2016, when Syrian applicants were more than one in four. Afghanistan and Iraq completed the top three countries of origin in 2018.
Despite the overall decrease in applications, several nationalities lodged more applications than in the previous year, including Venezuelans.
Frontex sees 73 percent decrease compared with December
The EU border agency Frontex, in its monthly report, said only 150 migrants arrived via the Central Mediterranean route in January 2019, a 73 percent decrease on December 2018 and a 96 percent decrease compared with January 2018.
Frontex said the Western Mediterranean route towards Spain remains under heavy migratory pressure. More than half of the migrants who reached the EU (3,780) came through this route in January. It said although this was a decline of 18 percent for this route compared to December 2018, the number was still double that of January 2018.
Overall, the number of arrivals in January 2019 (6,760) was down by a third compared with December, and down by one-fifth compared with January 2018.