Latest Asylum Trends

May 2020

The visualisation below provides an overview of the key indicators regarding the situation of international protection in the EU+ in the past 24 months. The size of the different circles in the countries of origin is proportional to the volume of applications lodged in EU+ countries, the colour of the circle reflects the recognition rate at first-instance (blue - high, red - low). The shade of the country reflects the stock of pending cases at the end of the selected year. By clicking on a circle, the evolution of these key indicators for the citizenship selected is displayed in the lower panel.

Reference month:   Citizenship:   

 
 
 
 
 

Source: EASO EPS, May 2018 – May 2020.

Asylum applications include all persons who have lodged or have been included in an application for international protection as a family member in the reporting country during the reporting month. 

First-instance decisions include all persons covered by decisions issued on granting EU-regulated international protection status (refugee or subsidiary protection) following a first time or repeated application for international protection in the first instance determination process.

Stock of pending cases includes all cases for which an asylum application has been lodged and are under consideration by the national authority responsible for the first instance determination of the application for international protection (until the first instance decision has been issued) at the end of the reference period (i.e. last day of the reference month). It refers to the “stock” of applications for which decisions in first instance are still pending.

The EU+ recognition rate includes EU-regulated forms of protection (refugee status and subsidiary protection) and excludes national protection forms (humanitarian reasons). It is calculated by dividing the number of positive first-instance decisions (granting refugee status or subsidiary protection) by the total number of decisions issued.

 

 

Key findings

  • Despite the gradual easing of containment measures across the EU+, asylum activities are still not fully resumed in the vast majority of countries. For example, in May, just 10 190 asylum applications were lodged in the EU+, roughly 1 400 more than in April 2020 but still much reduced compared to pre-COVID-19 levels (down by – 83 % from February).
  • There continues to be many more applications for asylum than detections at the external border, but the gap has closed during the COVID-19 lockdown.
  • More unaccompanied minors (UAMs) are applying for asylum - 4 % of all applications in May.
  • The concentration of UAMs among Egyptians and Afghans increased in May.
  • The share of repeated applications increased double from pre-COVID-19 months and accounted for 16 % of the total caseload in the EU+ in May.
  • Syrians and Afghans continued to lodge the most applications in the EU+, whereas Moroccans were the top fourth nationality. However, the composition of the top countries of origin is clearly influenced by the different degree of activity of asylum authorities across the EU+, rather than indicative of asylum-related migration trends to the EU+.
  • At least some 27 300 decisions were issued at first instance, down by 42 % from February.
  • Decision making by asylum authorities continued to be less affected by containment measures compared to asylum applications. In other words, applications are much reduced but many asylum authorities are still able to issue decisions. 
  • At the end of March, some 940 960 cases were pending at all instances (also including appeals).
  • At the end of May, some 462 829 cases were pending at first instance in the EU+, down by almost 9 400 cases from April, and by 7 % (- 32 300) from the pre-COVID-19 levels of February.
  • The number of cases pending at first instance decreased for the third successive month, in line with the reduction in the number of lodged applications.
 

 

EU+ picture: In May, more asylum applications were lodged in the EU+ than in April 2020 but still much reduced compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. Even though fewer first-instance decisions were also issued, they exceeded the number of applications lodged, resulting in a reduction of pending cases at first instance. This reduction was more evident in some EU+ countries.

Asylum activities still affected by containment measures in place across the EU+

The COVID-19 outbreak led to severe restrictions in most EU+ countries, which led to a sharp drop in asylum applications, an effect already noted in March 2020. In May, some 10 188 asylum applications were lodged.1 This was an increase for the first time in 2020, up by 16 % compared to April, likely related to the resumption of asylum activities and the easing of some mobility restrictions. However, asylum trends still remained far below pre-COVID-19 levels, and around three to six times fewer than in the first three months of the year. The majority of all applications were lodged in just two EU+ countries, plus only six of the 29 EU+ countries received more than 500 applications in May. A State of emergency and/or health crisis were still ongoing in several EU+ countries, with many only providing services for the pre-registration of new asylum applications, but not their formal lodging. This might imply that a backlog of cases ready to be lodged is forming in these countries. The number of applications lodged so far in 2020 (180 627) was much lower - by 33 % - compared to the same period last year. In May, detections of illegal border-crossing (IBCs) at the EU+ external borders doubled (to 3 000) from April2 but also remained well below pre-COVID-19 levels. In fact, the gap between irregular arrivals and asylum applications was the smallest in years.

The share of repeated applications among all applications lodged continued to rise, reaching 16 % in May (vs 14 % in April and 9 % in March). Applications lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs) were also more prominent in May, accounting for more than 4 % of all asylum applications (vs. less than 3 % in previous months). Most UAMs continued to be nationals of Afghanistan. In fact in May the slow resumption of lodgings - in some countries more than in others - was focussed on vulnerable applicants, including UAMs.

In May, EU+ countries issued some 27 331 decisions at first instance, decreasing for a fourth consecutive month.3 Despite the decrease, decision-making was less affected by the COVID-19 outbreak than the lodging of applications; compared to February, the output of asylum authorities indeed decreased by 42 %, compared to 83 % fewer applications. With COVID-19 containment measures in place across the EU+, in many countries there was a temporary suspension of services related to the lodging of asylum applications; however, several countries focussed on lowering the backlog in case processing. Thus, despite decreasing, first-instance decisions issued in the EU+ outnumbered asylum applications each month since March.

At the end of March, some 940 960 cases were pending at all instances (also including appeals).As a result of more decisions issued than applications lodged, in May the number of pending cases at first instance decreased to some 462 829, down by more than 32 300 cases from February (- 7 %). This decrease was more marked in some EU+ countries.

In addition, the EU+ recognition rate5 also varied widely during the lockdown, whereas it is usually rather stable at the monthly level. For example, in April the recognition rate for EU-regulated types of protection leaped to 52 %, the highest level since December 2016, and then fell in May to 38 %, which is still higher than in the first three months of 2020, as well as than in 2019 (33 %). These sudden changes were at least partially linked to a changing composition of cases that were being processed. For example, in May fewer decisions were issued to Syrians - with a high recognition rate of 82 % - whereas more decisions were issued to Nigerians - with a recognition rate of 9 %.

Applications lodged by top citizenships

The composition of the top countries of origin is more influenced by differential resumption of activities in the EU+ asylum authorities, rather than indicative of asylum-related migration trends to the EU+.

As previously, Syrians (1 900) and Afghans (965) continued to lodge the most applications in the EU+, accounting for 28 % of all applications. Both lodged more applications compared to April. Iraqi was the third nationality lodging the most applications (600) in May, down by 14 % compared to a month earlier. Moroccans lodged almost three times as many applications (393) as in April, the largest increase in absolute terms among all nationalities.

Other citizenships applying for asylum in significant numbers also included Nigerians, Turks, Pakistanis, Iranians, Eritreans, and Somalis; of these, only Turks (- 24 %) and Iranians (- 15 %) lodged fewer applications than in April. However, overall the number of applications lodged by all the above-mentioned nationalities remained below the levels of March 2020 or earlier this year. Citizens of Venezuela and Colombia – who were among the top four countries of origin at the beginning of this year (January – March) – lodged only 131 and 87 applications, respectively. Among citizenships that tend to lodge few applications,  the largest increases in absolute terms were recorded for nationals of Bangladesh (229 or + 156 applications compared to April), Haiti (123 or + 98), Algeria (230 or + 86), Democratic Republic of Congo (114 or + 66), and Sudan (91 or + 66).

On the contrary, fewer applications were lodged by visa-free citizenships such as Georgians, Albanians, and Serbians; as usual, many of such applications were repeated (ranging between 19 and 30 %). Other citizenships frequently lodging repeated applications included Russia and the Gambia (almost one in every two), Ukraine, Nigeria, and Iraq, all considerably more than in April. As a matter of fact, the share of repeated applications increased among several citizenships, as repeated applicants are already present in the EU+ and might be less affected by border closures.

In addition, half of all applications of self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs) were lodged by Afghans and Syrians. Concentration of UAMs among Egyptians increased to 19 % in May (from 11 % in April) and to 16 % among Afghans.

 

 
 

Focus on relevant citizenships

Syria - In May 2020, Syrians, the top citizenship of origin, lodged some 1 900 applications or almost one in five of all applications lodged in the EU+. This was a 13 % increase compared to April, when the lowest number of applications in years was recorded.

Half as many first-instance decisions (5 200) were issued to Syrian nationals compared to April, when the highest number of decisions since May 2017 was issued. Since March, when the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on asylum activities became obvious, the number of decisions issued to Syrians exceeded the number of applications lodged, whereas this was not the case in previous months. As a result, at the end of May, there was a decrease in the number of cases awaiting a decision at first instance (37 235, down by some 2 980), decreasing for three consecutive months and the lowest since mid-2014. Slightly more than half of the cases were pending for more than six months; in fact, those pending for less than six months were visibly reduced compared to April (17 489 vs 20 912).

The recognition rate for Syrians stood at 82 % in May, similar to the pre-COVID-19 months, but down by 8 percentage points compared to April. Despite the drop, the Syrian recognition rate in May was still the highest among all citizenships applying for asylum in the EU+.

AfghanistanSome 965 applications were lodged by Afghans, up by 24 % from April, but around seven times fewer than in the first two months of 2020.

Fewer first-instance decisions were issued to Afghan applicants in May (2 897 or - 25 %), but still far more than the applications lodged. In addition, more applications were withdrawn in April and May (950 and 701 respectively) than a year ago. Given so, a modest reduction in the Afghan nationals awaiting a decision at first instance was recorded, down to 47 074 or some 1 500 fewer than in April. Still, Afghans remained the nationality with the highest backlog in the EU+.

The EU+ recognition rate for decisions issued to Afghan applicants dropped to 36 % in May, a considerable decrease from the 46 % in the first quarter of 2020 and lower than in Q4 2019 (50 %).

Morocco – In May, Moroccans lodged twice as many applications (393) compared to April, but still far fewer than the pre- COVID-19 months (more than a thousand lodged in February). Thus, Moroccans became the fourth nationality lodging the most applications in the EU+, whereas it was only among the top 25 in the pre-COVID-19 months of 2020. Clearly, this is influenced by the different degree of restrictions still in place across the EU+.

However, the number of first instance decisions issued for Moroccans remained low (slightly above 180 in April or May), and below the number of applications. Still, more Moroccan applications were withdrawn compared to April (128 vs 69). Thus, the number of Moroccan cases pending at first instance was only slightly reduced (4 130, only some 200-300 cases fewer compared to the first three months of 2020). Since February 2020, there was an increase in the proportion of cases pending for more than six months.

The recognition rate for Moroccans dropped to 5 % in May, down from 17 % in April, but closer to the recognition rates at the beginning of the year.

 


First instance decisions for top citizenships

In May, Syrians and Afghans were issued fewer first instance decisions (- 58 % and - 25 % respectively) compared to the previous month. Yet, Nigerians and Iraqis were issued far more decisions in May than in April (up by 132 % and 32 % respectively). Regardless of these trends, in May the number of first-instance decisions exceeded the number of applications lodged for almost all the top nationalities.


EU+ recognition rates in top citizenships

Among the top 10 countries receiving most decisions, Syrians (82 %) and Eritreans (71 %) continued to have the highest recognition rates in May. Among citizenships being issued relatively fewer decisions,6 recognition rates were also high among nationals of Yemen (78 %) and China (74 %). In all the above cases, recognition rates dropped from April. Conversely, only around 5 % of Georgians, 8 % of Gambians and 9 % of Nigerians and Albanians were granted protection status. For Gambians, this was a decrease of 10 percentage points compared to April. Overall, the monthly variation in recognition rates was wider during the pandemic than before; more details on the reasons behind this variation can be found in the “EASO Special Report: Asylum Trends and COVID-19 - Issue 2”.


Pending cases for top citizenships

At the end of May, most first-instance pending cases pertained to Afghan (47 074 or 10 % of the total cases pending in the EU+) and Syrian (37 235 or 8 %) applicants. For both, the backlog continued to decrease gradually since February, with the drop being more evident for Syrians. The decrease was mostly among the newer cases (i.e. pending for less than six months). A similar pattern to the above-mentioned nationalities was observed for Turks and Pakistanis. Regarding Latin American visa-free nationals, the number of cases pending at first instance for Colombians (36 785 or 8 % of the total cases pending in the EU+), Venezuelans (29 423 or 6 %), and Hondurans (10 394 or 3 %) remained roughly stable compared to April, but increased compared to pre-COVID-19 months.7 

 

This page is produced by EASO’s Situational Awareness Unit (SAU) on the basis of monthly data exchanged under the Early Warning and Preparedness System (EPS). The data shared with EASO by the EU+ countries are provisional and unvalidated, and therefore may differ from validated data submitted to Eurostat (according to Regulation (EC) No 862/2007). In line with the dissemination guide on EPS data, EASO cannot publish data disaggregated per EU+ country.

Date of release: 13 July 2020



Notes
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[1]  In May, data on asylum applications were available for all 29 EU+ countries; data on first-instance decisions were available for 28 EU+ countries; data on cases pending at first-instance were available for 28 EU+ countries.
[2] FRONTEX, News release, 15 June 2020.
[3] First-instance decisions include all persons covered by decisions issued on granting EU-regulated international protection status (refugee or subsidiary protection) following a first time or repeated application for international protection in the first-instance determination process.
[4] Eurostat, migr_asypenctzm, accessed on 7 July 2020. An indication of the cases pending at second and higher instances (i.e. in appeal or review) may be drawn by comparing the number of cases awaiting a decision at first instance (EPS data), with those pending at all instances of the administrative and/or judicial procedure (Eurostat migr_asypenctzm).
[5] This recognition rate does not include national forms of protection.
[6] Those receiving at least 200 first-instance decisions in May.
[7] Data on pending cases for these citizenships might be subject to technical revisions.