The number of applications for asylum in Europe has almost halved since COVID-19 containment measures came into effect. Syrians and Afghans continue to make up the biggest groups seeking protection.
The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) says that in March, 34,737 applications for asylum were lodged in Europe, a fall of 43% compared with the previous month.
The figures do not reflect a general asylum-related migration trend towards the EU but are the result of COVID-19 containment measures, EASO says. In fact, just before the virus outbreak in Europe, asylum applications were 16% higher than in the same period in 2019.
The European Commission has provided EU countries with guidelines on ways to ensure the continuity of asylum procedures in the current COVID-19 situation. However, responses to the outbreak and their impact on asylum systems and border restrictions varied across the bloc, EASO says.
Over the past months, asylum applications have increasingly become confined to a small number of EU countries, with the top four countries receiving more than three quarters of all applications lodged, according to EASO.
The percentage of applicants lodging a
second claim -- meaning they had already received a negative decision on a
previous application -- has not changed.
Fewer granted protection
The overall recognition rate for protection in the EU has been decreasing over the past year, EASO figures show. The recognition rate for decisions issued in the first quarter of 2020 was 28%, down from 35% in the same period in 2019.
Meanwhile, prior to March, most asylum applications in the EU continued to be lodged by Syrians and Afghans, followed by Colombians and Venezuelans. These four groups accounted for 38% of applications lodged in Europe overall in the first two months of this year.