The European Commission in Brussels, Belgium | Photo: EPA/Julian Warnard
The European Commission in Brussels, Belgium | Photo: EPA/Julian Warnard

Far fewer people applied for asylum in the European Union in 2020 than in previous years. Germany, Spain and France saw the highest number of applications; Cyprus the most per capita.

In the member states of the European Union (EU) 416,600 people submitted first-time asylum requests last year, according to new figures released by Eurostat, the EU's statistical office. That's 34% fewer than in 2019.

One in four applied for asylum in Germany

The majority of first-time applications for international protection were submitted in Germany (102,500, 24.6% of the total), Spain (86,400, 21%), France (81,800, 20%), Greece (37,900, 9%) and Italy (21,200, 5%). The five countries together received 80% of all asylum requests.

Austria was the only country among the nine member states with more than 10,000 first-time asylum requests where the number of applications increased in 2020 compared to 2019, by 17.5%. In all other countries requests went down significantly, with Greece seeing the largest decrease (-49.5%). In Italy, first-time requests decreased by 39.4%.

Cyprus: Most asylum requests per capita

Relative to its population Cyprus saw the the highest number of first-time asylum requests in 2020 -- 8,448 per million residents, followed by Malta (4,686 per million residents) and Greece (3,532).

The countries with the lowest numbers of asylum requests per capita were Hungary (nine first-time seekers per million residents), followed by Estonia (35), Poland (40) and Slovakia (49).

Most from Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Colombia

Syrians, Afghans, Venezuelans and Colombians submitted the highest number of asylum requests, together making up 40% of all first-time asylum requests in EU member states in 2020.

Syrians were the largest group -- 63,500 first-time asylum seekers were Syrians, that's 15% of all applicants. More than half of them submitted their requests in Germany. Syrians have been the largest group of asylum applicants in the EU since 2013.

Afghans submitted 44,200 first-time asylum requests in 2020, that's 11% of the EU total. About one-fourth of all requests from Afghans were submitted in Greece and France.

Venezuelans submitted 30,300 first-time asylum applications -- 7% of the EU total. More than 90% of Venezuelans requested asylum in Spain.

A total of 29,100 Colombians requested protection in the EU in 2020 -- that's also roughly 7% of the EU total. More than 90% of requests from Colombian nationals were filed in Spain.


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