Latest Asylum Trends

Latest asylum trends – September 2021

The visualisation below provides an overview of the key indicators regarding the situation of international protection in the EU+ in the past 25 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. Note that the visualization below includes data for the United Kingdom (30 EU+ countries) until the end of 2019, whereas it excludes data for the United Kingdom as of January 2020 (29 EU+ countries).

Reference month:   Citizenship:   

 
 
 
 
 

© EuroGeographics for the administrative boundaries. The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the European Union.1
 
Source: EASO EPS, September 2019 – September 2021.

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. 

EU+ refers to the 27 European Union Member States, plus Norway and Switzerland. However, until the end of 2019 data for the EU+ include also the United Kingdom.

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 at 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

  • About 71 200 applications for international protection were lodged in the EU+ in September 2021, up by a quarter from August. For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, applications exceeded the last pre-pandemic levels.
  • Applications by Afghans increased considerably, from about 10 000 in August to 17 300 in September (+ 72 %). Afghans were by far the largest group of applicants in the EU+, applying nearly twice as much as Syrians. While Afghan citizens applied the most since September 2016, the level was less than half of the historical peak in November 2015.
  • Turks were the third largest group of applicants, who continued to apply at the record level of August. Further rising applications by Iraqis were partly due to the irregular migration route via Belarus.
  • Several other main nationalities recorded substantially more applications in September. Apart from Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Venezuelans, this also included citizens of some countries in the vicinity of the EU+, notably Albanians and Tunisians.
  • About 3 000 applications were lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors, remaining at the highest level since 2016. They corresponded to 4 % of the total in the EU+.
  • Asylum authorities in EU+ countries issued 40 500 first instance decisions in September, significantly more than in August. However, applications outnumbered first instance decisions by more than 30 000 cases.
  • At 41 %, the EU+ recognition rate in September was the highest since April 2020. Its increase was largely driven by the highest recognition rate for Afghans on record (86 %). 
  • About three fifths of all positive decisions granted refugee status, while the remainder granted subsidiary protection. For Afghans and Syrians, the split was roughly half-half.
  • Among the nationalities receiving the most decisions, recognition rates were the highest for Syrians (87 %), Afghans (86 %), Belarusians (85 %) and Eritreans (81 %).
  • Across all instances, about 798 400 cases were pending in the EU+ at the end of August. Some 394 300 cases were pending at first instance at the end of September. The share of cases pending for up to six months was approaching half of the first instance total.
 

 

Afghans remained the largest group and lodged 72 % more applications

EU+ countries received about 71 200 applications for international protection in September 2021 (including estimated numbers for missing data from two EU+ countries). This was an increase by 27 % from August, following significant increases in every month since June. Applications by Afghans rose to some 17 300, a large increase by 72 % from August, when Afghans lodged just over 10 000 applications. The rising trend in Afghan applications, for seven consecutive months so far, not only continued in September but accelerated. 

Afghans remained the largest applicant group in September, applying nearly twice as much as Syrians (9 100) who had been the largest group every month for seven years up to July 2021. While Afghans lodged the most applications since September 2016, this level was still far lower than the all-time high in November 2015 (see country focus). The large increase in Afghan applications in September partly reflected the evacuations that followed the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, as some time can elapse between arrival and lodging an asylum application.2 Accordingly, most of the applications by Afghans were first-time applications (some 13 700), which increased by 60 % from August. The remainder (some 3 600) were repeated applications in the same EU+ country. 

Increasing trends for several main nationalities

While Afghans accounted for almost half of the increase in total applications from August, several other main applicant groups also applied substantially more in September. Applications by Bangladeshis (some 2 800, + 26 % from August) were at a new high (see country focus), closely followed by Pakistanis (2 700, + 22 %). These two nationalities have recorded more applications in almost every month since February 2021. Citizens of some countries in the vicinity of the EU+ continued to lodge high numbers of applications. Those by Turks (some 3 000, - 3 %) essentially remained at the record level of August, which was the highest since at least 2014 (the beginning of the EPS data exchange). As in previous months, substantially more applications were lodged by Albanians (2 100, + 49 %), Tunisians (1 700, + 37 %) and Georgians (1 700, + 14 %). Applications by Albanians and Tunisians were more than four times as many as half a year earlier (see country focus). 

From a relatively high level, applications by Iraqis (2 900, + 7 %) increased further, partly due to the irregular migration route via Belarus, where Iraqis have been the largest group. In addition, Venezuelans (1 800, + 41 %) applied the most since October 2020, clearly deviating from the downward trend that had prevailed during most of the COVID-19 pandemic. The nationalities mentioned so far made up the 10 main applicant groups in September. They jointly accounted for close to two thirds of all applications lodged in the EU+. Notable developments outside the group of the 10 main nationalities included a tripling of applications by citizens of North Macedonia (some 1 300, + 245 %) as well as rising applications by Colombians (1 100, + 51 %), Egyptians (780, + 38 %) and Armenians (420, + 110 %).

Total applications above pre-pandemic levels for the first time

As a result of rising applications by a range of main nationalities, September was the first month since the beginning of the pandemic when total applications exceeded the last pre-pandemic levels in January and February 2020 (when some 65 700 and 61 400 applications were lodged, respectively). The level in September was in fact the highest since November 2016. It is worth noting that applicants from visa-liberalised countries contributed significantly to this development, collectively accounting for some 11 200 applications in September, up from 8 000 in August. This group includes the citizens of Albania, Georgia and North Macedonia as well as a number of Latin American countries, and notably Venezuelans and Colombians have been lodging increasingly more applications in the EU+ in recent months. However, while rising, the share of applications from visa-liberalised countries (16 % in September) has not nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels (about 30 %). Instead, total applications included relatively many repeated applications (at least 9 600, + 41 % from August), which were mainly lodged by Afghans and citizens of North Macedonia.

Applications by self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs) in the EU+ remained at about 3 000 in September, still at the highest level since January 2016. As they were stable while other applications increased, UAMs accounted for only 4 % of total applications in the EU+, after 5 % in August. Fewer UAMs from Afghanistan applied, possibly because minors evacuated from Afghanistan in August were normally not unaccompanied. However, the number of Afghan UAMs remained high, making them by far the largest group of UAMs, ahead of UAMs from Syria and Bangladesh (see country focus).

 

Focus on selected countries of origin of applicants

Afghanistan – In almost every month since at least 2014, Afghans were one of the three largest groups of asylum applicants in the EU+. This year, Afghan applications have been increasing notably since March. As a result, for the first time on record (since the beginning of the EPS data exchange), Afghans became the largest group of applicants in the EU+ in August. In September, the rise continued strongly: Afghan applications increased by almost three quarters from August, up to some 17 300 applications and accounting for nearly a quarter of the EU+ total (where numbers include estimates for missing data from two EU+ countries). Furthermore, this was the most Afghan applications since September 2016. The historical peak was in November 2015, with some 38 200 applications. Hence, the level in September 2021 was close to a half of the historical peak. 

Simultaneously, the number of repeated Afghan asylum seekers in the same EU+ country more than doubled for the second consecutive month, reaching a new high and accounting for over a fifth of the total Afghan applications in September. In contrast, the number of self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs) from Afghanistan decreased by more than 10 % from August but remained relatively high (at least 1 350, accounting for close to half of all UAMs seeking asylum across the EU+).

In September, EU+ countries issued the most first instance decisions on Afghans so far this year – at least 4 700, up by more than a third from the previous month (based on data from 27 EU+ countries). About 56 000 Afghan cases were pending at first instance at the end of September, the most in almost four years. Almost nine in 10 decisions on Afghan applications were positive. This was the highest recognition rate for Afghans on record (since the beginning of the EPS data exchange) and up by 26 percentage points from August. Roughly equal shares of positive decisions granted subsidiary protection (51 %) and refugee status (49 %).

Bangladesh – In September 2021, around 2 800 Bangladeshis applied for international protection in the EU+, the most in over six years. Just 3 % of these applications were repeated, the lowest share in years. The inflow of Bangladeshi applicants has especially increased in the second half of 2021. In June, Bangladeshi applications rose by almost a quarter from the previous month and have been growing ever since. In September and in fact in most months since October 2019, Bangladeshis were one of the 10 largest groups of applicants in the EU+. 

Applications by self-claimed unaccompanied minors from Bangladesh have tended to increase in recent months, broadly in line with the rise of total Bangladeshi applications. By September, their number (some 230) had grown fourfold compared to the beginning of this year. This made Bangladeshis the third largest group of unaccompanied minors applying in EU+ countries (after Afghans and Syrians), and they accounted for 8 % of all Bangladeshi applications.

More than 1 300 first instance decisions were issued to Bangladeshis in September, a slight increase from the previous month. The caseload rose to over 11 000 cases, the most since February this year. Around two fifths of them had been pending for more than six months. The recognition rate for Bangladeshi applications was 3 % in the first nine months of 2021, the lowest in several years.

Albania – In September 2021, Albanians were the seventh largest group of applicants in the EU+, accounting for around 3 % of all applications. With quickly increasing applications since May, Albanians lodged some 2 130 applications in September, up by almost half from August 2021 and the most since October 2018. More than eight in every 10 Albanian applicants in September applied for the first time in the EU+, while the number of Albanian unaccompanied minors was negligible.

At the same time, the number of first instance decisions issued on Albanian cases also rose (above 900) but remained below the pre-pandemic levels of January and February 2020 (when some 1 440 decisions were issued on average). Since June 2020, the number of Albanian cases pending at first instance has been increasing, reaching some 4 150 in September. This was entirely driven by cases pending for less than six months, as the older caseload (pending for six months or more) declined. The recognition rate for Albanian cases so far in 2021 stood at 6 %. In August and September 2021 in particular, only 3 % received a positive decision, the lowest monthly recognition rates in a year.

 

Growing gap between applications and first instance decisions 

From a relatively low level in the previous month, the number of decisions has increased substantially: EU+ countries issued about 40 500 decisions at first instance in September 2021 (where data are missing for two EU+ countries), up by 14 % from August. In particular, first instance decisions issued to Afghans rose from 3 500 in August to more than 4 700 in September, which was the highest level so far in 2021. An even stronger increase occurred for Venezuelans, who received six times as many decisions (close to 1 800) as in August (about 300). EU+ countries also took significantly more decisions on Syrians (some 6 300 in total), Somalis, Albanians and citizens of North Macedonia.  

However, as applications increased more strongly, the gap to decisions widened. In September, applications outnumbered first instance decisions by more than 30 000 cases, increasing from almost 20 000 cases in August and about 12 000 in July. The gap in September was again the largest gap in five years, since August 2016. While adjusting for missing data from two EU+ countries does not significantly affect these figures, the gap shrinks somewhat when withdrawn applications and other case closures (mainly in Dublin procedures) are accounted for in addition to first instance decisions.      

Highest recognition rate for Afghans on record 

The EU+ recognition rate was 41 % in September 2021, the highest since April 2020. For the EU+ recognition rate, only decisions that granted refugee status and subsidiary protection are considered positive, in contrast to decisions granting humanitarian protection under national law. About three fifths of all positive decisions in September granted refugee status, while the remainder granted subsidiary protection

The increase in the overall recognition rate was largely driven by the highest recognition rate for Afghans on record (86 % in September), i.e. since the beginning of the EPS data exchange in 2014. It was far higher than their recognition rate in the period January – August 2021 (54 %) and essentially the same as for Syrians (87 %). In fact, Afghans had unusually high recognition rates in September both for first-time applications (85 %) and repeated applications (72 %). As for Syrians, about half of all positive decisions on Afghan cases granted refugee status, the other half granting subsidiary protection.  

Apart from Syrians and Afghans, Eritreans (81 %) and Belarusians (85 %) had the highest recognition rates in September, among the nationalities receiving at least 200 decisions. Recognition rates were especially low for Moldovans (0 %), Georgians and Indians (1 %), Serbians and citizens of North Macedonia (2 %), Bangladeshis and Albanians (3 %).

Continuing rise of the caseload at first instance

Based on the latest available data, about 798 400 cases were pending at all instances3 in the EU+ at the end of August 2021, roughly stable from July. Some 899 600 cases had been awaiting a decision a year earlier, in August 2020. Since then, EU+ countries have reduced the caseload by 11 %. Cases pending at first instance – those that are still being processed by asylum authorities, not including those that are open in appeal or review (second and higher instances) – fell by about 32 000 between August 2020 and August 2021, declining at roughly the same rate as total pending cases. 

At the end of September 2021, about 394 300 cases were still pending at first instance,4 up by 4 % from the end of August. Pending cases at first instance therefore increased for the fourth time in a row, which reflects the recent increases in applications that have far outpaced first instance decisions. Accordingly, the share of cases pending for up to six months grew and was approaching one half in September. Slightly more pending cases concerned Afghans (about 56 000) than Syrians (55 000). Together, these two nationalities accounted for 28 % of all cases still pending at first instance.

 

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 (EU) 2020/851 amending Regulation (EC) 862/2007). In line with the dissemination guide on EPS data, EASO cannot publish data disaggregated per EU+ country.

Date of release: 01 December 2021



Notes
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[1]  The designation "Kosovo" is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
[2]  See EASO Situational update Issue No 7, Developments in asylum procedures in EU+ countries in response to the situation in Afghanistan
[3]  Eurostat data (migr_asypenctzm) on pending cases at all instances in August 2021 were available for 28 EU+ countries; the July value was used for the missing country. EASO EPS data on pending cases at first instance were available for 27 EU+ countries in August 2021.  
[4] Using values from earlier months for two EU+ countries where data were unavailable for September. Based only on the 27 EU+ countries reporting in September, the number was 390 500.