Latest Asylum Trends

January 2020

Latest Asylum Trends - January 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, January 2018 – January 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

  • Asylum applications have been on the rise in the EU+ since the beginning of 2017.
  • In January 2020, applications for international protection exceeded 65 000 – something that has only occurred a couple of times in the last three years.
  • In line with the general increase, in January 2020 asylum applications were up by nearly 20 % compared to the same period in 2019.
  • There were nearly six times as many applications for asylum as detections at the external border; in Europe as whole, asylum is becoming decoupled from irregular migration.
  • Who is applying for asylum? There are three main trends – Syrians continued to apply in high numbers, Afghans were increasingly lodging applications, and the number of visa-free Latin Americans continued to grow.
  • Correspondingly, Syrians, Afghans and Colombians lodged the most applications.
  • In January 2020, Colombians lodged the most applications of all the Latin American countries, remarkably even more than Venezuelans.
  • In addition, Peruvians and Hondurans each lodged record numbers of applications.
  • The lodging of successive applications either in the same country (subsequent applications) or in different countries (secondary movements) continued to be a major challenge for Member States.
  • Member States were struggling to keep up with the number of applications being lodged: fewer first-instance decisions were issued (51 000) than applications lodged (65 000).
  • Usually, around a third of decisions offer EU regulated protection, either refugee status or subsidiary protection. In January the EU+ recognition rate was 27 %.
  • The highest recognition rates in the past six months were for Syrians (83 %) and Eritreans (80 %), whereas the lowest for applicants from Moldova (1 %) and Venezuela (3 %) but this does not include humanitarian protection by some countries.
  • At the end of December 2019, a conservative estimate suggests that there were some 911 885 cases awaiting decisions either at first instance (with asylum authorties) or in appeal (with judiciary). This number shows no sign of declining.
 

 

A persistent upward trend in asylum applications

In the first month of 2020, there were some 65 170 applications for international protection in the EU+, up by 9 % from December.1 Since late 2016, this is just the third time that asylum applications exceeded 65 000 – the other two having occurred in the last quarter of 2019. This also testifies to an underlying upward trend. The vast majority of applications continued to be concentrated in a limited number of countries - three quarters of all applications were in fact lodged in the four countries receiving most applications in 2019. Detections of illegal border-crossing at the EU+ external borders remained low, with a ratio of one to (almost) six applications lodged. Overall, applications for international protection rose by 19 % in January 2020 compared to the same month in 2019.2

Syrians continued to lodge the most applications (7 941), accounting for 12 % of the overall EU+ caseload. In fact, they lodged the most since the end of 2017, continuing to apply in a rather limited number of countries. Afghans followed (6 878), also lodging more applications than in December. For the first time since the rise in asylum-related migration from Latin America, Colombians (5 269) lodged far more than 5 000 applications in the EU+ in a single month, thus slightly outnumbering Venezuelans (5 005). Iraqis, Turks, Pakistanis, Nigerians, Georgians, and Somalis completed the list of the most common citizenships of origin.

The overall upward trend continued to be driven by many applications lodged by visa-exempt Latin American countries (Peru, Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela), as well as by Congolese (DR) and Afghan nationals.3 The month-on-month increase in applications was particularly noticeable for nationals of Peru (+ 67 % compared to the previous month), Honduras (+ 44 %), Colombia (+ 40 %), and El Salvador (+ 18 %). Peruvians and Hondurans lodged more than a thousand applications in January, reaching a new record level.

The number of repeated applications – lodged by third-country nationals having already received a negative decision on a previous application – continued to fluctuate slightly. At the end of January, repeats accounted for 9 % of all applications – after having gradually decreased in the course of 2019. The phenomenon continued to be prominent, however, among citizens of Western Balkan countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina (45 %), Serbia and North Macedonia (39 % each). Other citizenship groups with a large share of repeated applications were nationals of Azerbaijan (28 %), Russia, (24 %), the Gambia and Ghana (22 % each), as well as Nigeria (21 %).4

As in previous months, approximately 3 % of all applications were lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs).5 For citizenships lodging at least 500 applications in January, the largest concentration of UAMs was among Egyptian (accounting for 9 % of all applications they lodged) and Afghan applicants (8 %).

 
 

Focus on relevant citizenships

Syria - In January 2020, Syrians lodged some 7 941 applications, up by 22 % compared to the previous month and the most since the end of 2017. Altogether, Syrians accounted for 12 % of all applications in the EU+; two thirds of such applications were lodged in just two EU+ countries.

Some 5 474 first-instance decisions were issued to Syrian nationals in January, only slightly up from December (+ 9 %). The number of other type of closures (i.e. applications withdrawn or otherwise closed) remained modest, such that the gap between inflows and outflows increased. Consequently, the number of pending cases reached a new high since April 2017: more than 51 600 Syrian applications were awaiting a first-instance decision at the end of January. At the end of December, however, some 84 520 Syrian applications were awaiting a decision at all instances; this means that some 35 000 Syrian applications were estimated to be awaiting a decision in appeal/review.6

The EU+ recognition rate for Syrian applicants continued to decline slightly, and stood at 83 % for decisions issued between August 2019 and January 2020, down by three percentage points from the previous semester.

Afghanistan - In January 2020, Afghans remained the second most common citizenship of asylum applicants in the EU+ by lodging some 6 878 applications, up by 9 % from December. As a result, Afghans lodged one in every ten applications in the EU+, only slightly fewer than Syrians. Thus, after a minor drop in December – nonetheless registered for most other citizenships and due to public holidays – Afghan applications returned to increase, following the trend highlighted in the second half of 2019. Apart from the peak observed in October and November 2019 – this was the most Afghan applications since late 2016. More than 80 % of all Afghan applications in January were lodged in just three EU+ countries.

Afghan applicants received some 2 746 decisions at first instance, on par with December, but far fewer than the number of applications lodged (6 878). Hence, the gap between inflows and outflows continued to be extremely large, such that pending cases increased for a fourteenth month in a row. At the end of January, some 50 400 Afghan applications were pending at first instance, close to the levels of November 2017. Nevertheless, the number of Afghan applications awaiting a decision at second instance was likely higher, and estimated to stand at about 62 545 applications at the end of December 2019.7

The EU+ recognition rate for decisions issued to Afghan applicants between August 2018 and January 2019 was 50 %, increasing by two percentage points from the previous semester.

Colombia – For the first time since the rise in Latin-American applications, Colombians ranked third among all citizenships applying for international protection in the EU+ (5 269 or three times as many as a year ago), slightly outnumbering Venezuelans (which ranked third in 2019). Colombians – similarly to Venezuelans – lodged the majority of their applications in one EU+ country.

EU+ asylum authorities – particularly in countries in which Colombians apply more frequently – continued to increase the output at first instance for Colombian applicants. In January, they received some 1 755 decisions at first instance, up by 32 % from December, and a massive tenfold increase from January 2019. However, due to the uninterrupted rise in the number of applications lodged by this citizenship group, the number of pending cases still reached a new record level. In fact, some 33 042 cases were awaiting a decision at the end of January, up by some 1 700 cases from December, and by almost 22 200 from a year ago.

Only 4 % of first-instance decisions issued to Colombian applicants between August 2019 and January 2020 granted some EU-regulated form of protection (either a refugee status or subsidiary protection), down by six percentage points from the previous semester (10 %). Together with Venezuelans, Colombians had the lowest recognition rate among the ten most common citizenship of origin of asylum applicants. 

 


EU+ output at first instance on the rise

In January 2020, some 51 000 first-instance decisions were issued in the EU+, about 5 700 more than in December.8 Typically, more decisions are issued in January than in December, since the latter month is characterised by many public holidays; moreover, this was higher than that registered, on average, in the second half of 2019 (about 46 700 decisions each month). Nevertheless, as in most months in 2019, in January there were more applications lodged than case closures (decisions, cases withdrawn or otherwise closed) at first instance.

With regard to the citizenship groups to whom such decisions were issued, it is worth noting a continuation of the trend of more decisions issued to Venezuelans and Colombians, observed in the course of 2019. Venezuelans were issued almost 9 500 decisions, up by 40 % from December, whereas Colombians some 1 755 (+ 32 %).


Slight drop in EU+ recognition rates

The EU+ recognition rate for EU-regulated types of protection in January was 27 %, down by three percentage points from December 2019.9 For decisions issued in the six-month period between August 2019 and January 2020, the recognition rate was 30 %, down from 34 % in the previous six months. This confirms a medium-term decrease in the share of positive decisions issued across the EU+. Moreover, fewer positive decisions granted refugee status: of all positive decisions issued in January, some 62 % granted refugee status, down by 69 % in December.

The drop in recognition rates can be attributed to the increase in the first-instance output to Latin-American citizenships, whose recognition rates are generally low, and further dropping. In the six months period between August 2019 and January 2020, the largest decreases in recognition rates - compared to the previous six months - were indeed observed among nationals of El Salvador (30 %, - 16 percentage points), Palestine (44 %, - 10 p.p.), Venezuela (3 %, - 8 p.p.), Colombia (4 %, - 6 p.p.) and Peru (7 %, - 5 p.p.).10 Conversely, the largest increase were observed for applicants from China (50 %, + 10 p.p.) and Turkey (56 %, + 4 p.p.). Among the citizenships receiving at least 2 000 decisions over the past six months, Syrians (83 %), Eritreans (80 %) and Sudanese (61 %) had the highest recognition rates, whereas nationals of Moldova (1 %), Venezuela (3 %), Serbia, Georgia and Colombia (4 % each) the lowest.


Pressure remains considerable on national asylum authorities in terms of pending cases

At the end of December 2019, there were some 911 430 cases pending at all instances11  deeper analysis suggests that this figure is an underestimation, with slightly more than half of all cases pending with asylum authorities at first instance and the remainder pending with judiciaries at second and higher instances.12

In fact, at least 503 000 applications were estimated to be awaiting a decision at first instance at the end of January 2020.13 About 80 % of such applications were pending in just six EU+ countries, testifying to unequal pressure on national asylum systems across the EU+. Syrian applicants had the most pending cases (51 665 or 11 % of the total pending cases in the EU+), followed by Afghans (50 397 or 10 %) and Venezuelans (43 940 or 9 %)14, altogether accounting for more than a quarter of all applications awaiting a decision in the EU+. The list of top 10 countries was completed by nationals of Colombia, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Nigeria, Eritrea and Iran.

 
 

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: 20 March 2020



Notes
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[1] In January 2020, the EU+ was composed of 30 EU Member States plus Norway and Switzerland. The data, however, were not available for Denmark and Malta.
[2] When the comparison was done between January 2020 and the same reference period in 2019, the data were omitted for Denmark, Malta, as well as the United Kingdom.
[3] Citizenships lodging at least 1 000 applications in January 2020 considered.
[4] Citizenships lodging at least 100 applications in January 2020 considered.
[5] Claimed UAMs represent the asylum applicants claiming to be below the age of 18 years rather than those assessed to be such after an age assessment has been carried out. Several EU+ countries have difficulties reporting on claimed UAMs in the framework of the EPS data exchange. These figures should therefore be considered as underestimations of the actual proportion of claimed UAMs.
[6] 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).
[7] 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).
[8] 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. In January, data on first-instance decisions were available for 27 EU+ countries. To enhance comparability, comparisons in the section include only the 27 EU+ reporting countries reporting in all reporting months.
[9] 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.
[10] Among citizenships receiving at least 2 000 decisions between August 2019 and January 2020.
[11] Data were available for all 28 EU countries, plus Norway and Switzerland.
[12] 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).
[13] Data for cases pending at first instance were available for 26 EU+ countries. Due to technical revisions, data on cases pending for Venezuelans relate to December 2019. These factors might affect some of the calculations in the section.
[14] Data on cases pending for Venezuelan nationals related to December 2019.