While the numbers of asylum seekers may be down, there are changes in the demographics | Photo: Reza Shirmohammadi/DW
While the numbers of asylum seekers may be down, there are changes in the demographics | Photo: Reza Shirmohammadi/DW

The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) has published its latest analysis of the most recent asylum trends in Europe. In addition to COVID-19 related issues, EASO also highlighted a surge of asylum seekers coming to the EU from Belarus.

EASO's latest press release highlighted the fact that various national measures designed to contain the spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic were still having an impact on asylum seekers across Europe, mainly in slowing down the rate at which applications were being lodged and processed.

The report said that almost 42,800 applications were lodged in EU+ countries in September, which marked a rise of 7% compared to the previous month, August, when only 40,000 applications were filed. However, just prior to the pandemic, almost 65,700 asylum applications had been submitted in January 2020, marking an overall fall of about a third when comparing the January rate to the latest data from September.

Read more: Numbers of protection seekers in Germany declining for first time in years

EASO uses the term EU+ to describe all EU member states plus the countries of Norway and Switzerland, which are not members of the bloc but cooperate closely in migration affairs and other transnational issues.

Asylum seekers line up at a government office in Germany | Photo: Imago/IPON
Asylum seekers line up at a government office in Germany | Photo: Imago/IPON

Backlog despite faster decisions

Since the beginning of 2020, the document read, application numbers in the EU had reached roughly 337,830, marking a notable decrease of more than a third from the same period in 2019, when 516,555 applications had been lodged.

While not being able to reduce the backlog of asylum applications across the EU significantly, EASO noted that the number of first-instance asylum decisions across the bloc had risen in September 2020 by 11 % from the previous month. Meanwhile, the number of first-instance decisions continues to outnumber the number of filed asylum applications for the seventh month in a row.

Read more: Mixed reactions to new EU migration pact

Recognition rates, more Latin American asylum applications

EASO also said that the nationalities of asylum applicants in Europe largely remained the same: The majority of applicants in September 2020 still were Syrian, Afghan, Colombian, Venezuelan, and Pakistani nationals, making up 43% of asylum seekers coming to the EU together.

So far in 2020, Syrians had the highest recognition rate among all citizenships applying for asylum in the EU+ (83 %).

The EU+ recognition rate for Afghan applicants stood at 58 % in September, remaining at the high levels recorded since June 2020.

The recognition rate for Pakistanis has fluctuated between 5 % and 10 % so far in 2020 and was 8 % in September. These values were slightly lower than the 2019 recognition rate (11 %), reports EASO.

The press release also noted that compared to last year’s numbers from the same period, there was a slight rise in the number of Colombian nationals applying for asylum in the EU as well as of Peruvians who, however, still remained in a small minority.

Most Spanish-speaking asylum seekers apply in Spain, though there is a rising number of cases observed in Italy as well.

Read more: Spain eclipses Germany as top destination for asylum seekers: report

Many Venezuelan nationals first cross the Arauca River to Colombia before heading to Europe to seek asylum | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Gutierrez
Many Venezuelan nationals first cross the Arauca River to Colombia before heading to Europe to seek asylum | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Gutierrez

Political persecution in Belarus

One definite trend noted in the report was the steep increase of asylum seekers from Belarus following months of political struggles in the Eastern European country. EASO said that in September 2020, more Belarusians had “applied for international protection in the EU+ than in any month since at least the beginning of EU harmonised data collection on international protection in 2008.”

EASO also pointed it however that the absolute number of applications from Belarusian individuals had to also be considered to understand the full picture: “[E]ven though this nationality registered a notable increase in first-time applications in September (almost twice as many as in August), at 186 first-time applications, the number remains very low and is not necessarily indicative of a developing trend.”

EASO added that it would continue to monitor asylum trends relating to Belarusian nationals in light of the ongoing situation in the country.

Despite continuing protests in Belarus the political situation remains unchanged, forcing some to seek asylum abroad | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/TASS/V. Sharifulin
Despite continuing protests in Belarus the political situation remains unchanged, forcing some to seek asylum abroad | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/TASS/V. Sharifulin


 

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