Latest Asylum Trends

Latest asylum trends – February 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.
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, February 2019 – February 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

  • Some 38 300 applications for international protection were lodged in the EU+ in February 2021, roughly stable compared to previous months.
  • Applications remain at two thirds of pre-COVID-19 levels. Hence, the effect of the pandemic on asylum applications evidently persists, despite ongoing EU+ vaccination campaigns.
  • Effects of the pandemic seem to be particularly relevant for nationals of visa-liberalised countries, who lodged especially few applications in February compared to a year ago (- 68 %), while the decline was limited for visa-obliged nationalities (- 22 %). 
  • Applications by (self-claimed) unaccompanied minors represented 3 % of all applications in the EU+. The absolute number was comparable to the level one year earlier.
  • Syrians, Afghans and Pakistanis lodged the most applications for international protection overall. Syrians alone accounted for a quarter of all asylum applications in the EU+.
  • The main nationalities remain almost unchanged from a year ago, but half of them have since consistently lodged fewer applications.
  • Ukrainians lodged the most applications since March 2017 and became one of the top nationalities of applicants.
  • About a quarter of all asylum applications lodged in the EU+ in February 2021 were repeated applications in the same EU+ country, after rapid increases in recent months driven by Syrians, who accounted for half of all repeats.
  • Increasing applications by Moroccans, Malians and Senegalese highlight the importance of irregular migration on the Western African route.
  • EU+ asylum authorities issued almost 41 000 first instance decisions, exceeding the number of applications. Two out of five decisions were issued to Syrians, Afghans, Venezuelans, Colombians and Iraqis.
  • The EU+ recognition rate was 32 % in February 2021. Three out of five positive decisions granted refugee status, while the remainder granted subsidiary protection.
  • Recognition rates were especially high for Syrians (88 %), Eritreans (76 %) and Somalis (57 %).
  • Some 405 600 cases were pending at first instance at the end of February. Close to two thirds of them were pending for more than six months, most often concerning Afghans.
 

 

One year on, asylum applications in the EU+ have not returned to pre-COVID-19 levels

A year after the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe, the level of asylum applications still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels: about 38 300 applications for international protection were lodged in the EU+ in February 2021,1 less than two thirds of the applications lodged in February 2020. There is also no evidence for an upward trend towards pre-COVID-19 levels – since July 2020, the number of applications in the EU+ has fluctuated around 40 000 per month (+/- 3 000), remaining substantially below the corresponding levels of a year ago. From January to February 2021, the number of applications remained essentially stable. Evidently, the effect of the pandemic on asylum applications is not short-lived. In addition, the stability at low levels suggests that pre-pandemic numbers of applications might only materialise once vaccination campaigns lead to fundamental changes of the situation in the EU+ and possibly beyond.   

Since the decline in applications after February 2020, numbers have recovered more for some groups of applicants than for others. One important group is citizens of visa-liberalised countries, who can enter the EU without a visa for stays up to 90 days: by February 2021, citizens of visa-liberalised countries were lodging applications corresponding to only one third of the level in February 2020. In contrast, citizens of visa-obliged countries lodged applications in numbers that approached pre-pandemic levels, corresponding to almost 80 % of the level a year earlier.   

Self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs) have been lodging applications in numbers that came especially close to pre-COVID-19 levels. In February 2021, UAMs lodged more than 1 300 applications in the EU+, corresponding to 80 % of the number in February 2020. From October to December 2020, applications by this group even exceeded pre-pandemic levels. To a large extent, this development is driven by UAMs from Afghanistan, who accounted for at least two fifths of all UAMs throughout the last seven months. In February 2021, applications by Afghan UAMs substantially exceeded the number in February 2020 (by about 17 %). Overall, UAMs represented 3 % of all applicants in the EU+ in February 2021, as in January.   

Applications by most main nationalities were below the last pre-pandemic level

Despite the impact of the pandemic, nine of the 10 main nationalities of applicants were the same in February 2021 as in February 2020, before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe. Apart from Syrian and Afghan – still by far the two most frequent groups – these nine citizenships include Pakistani, Iraqi, Nigerian, Colombian, Turkish, Venezuelan and Bangladeshi. For five of these nationalities, applications have thus far not come close2 to the level in February 2020: Afghans, whose 3 800 applications in February 2021 corresponded to 60 % of the level in February 2020, Iraqis (1 300, corresponding to 62 %), Nigerians (1 100, 73 %), Colombians (1 100, 22 %) and Venezuelans (1 100, 21 %). Being visa-liberalised countries, Colombia and Venezuela exemplify the particularly weak recovery for visa-liberalised countries.  

While applications by the other main nationalities have since come close to or exceeded the number in February 2020, they were in most cases again substantially lower in February 2021: this included Pakistanis, who lodged 1 400 applications in February 2021 corresponding to 68 % of the level in February 2020, Turks (1 100, 56 %) and Bangladeshis (840, 70 %). In contrast, Syrians lodged about 60 % more applications in February 2021 than a year earlier (about 10 000 vs 6 500). However, while applications by Syrians approached the level of February 2020 already in July and September 2020, they exceeded it only from December onwards due to large numbers of repeated applications in the same EU+ country (see the focus on Syria below). As a result, the share of repeats among all applicants has increased to the highest levels since at least 2014: as in January, about one out of four asylum applications in the EU+ in February 2021 was a repeated application

Ukraine recently joined the top countries of origin, compared to February 2020 (replacing Georgia). After on average 650 applications in the previous six months, Ukrainians lodged close to 1 000 applications in February 2021, 72 % more than in January (see focus on Ukraine below). Other changes from January among the top nationalities were limited to declining applications by Pakistanis (- 13 %) and Iraqis (- 11 %). Among other important origin countries,3 there were notable decreases from January also for Somalis (- 21 %), Sri Lankans (- 47 %, albeit from a peak value) and Moldovans (- 40 %), among others. Notable increases occurred for Malian and Senegalese applicants (+ 22 % in both cases). Together with a more modest rise for applicants from Morocco (+ 14 %), these increases highlight the importance of irregular migration on the Western African route.  
 

 

 

Focus on relevant countries of origin of applicants 

Syria – As in January 2021, Syrians lodged by far the most asylum applications in the EU+ in February. In fact, Syrians lodged more applications in February (10 046) than the next six citizenships combined. However, almost half of all applications by Syrians (4 949) were repeated applications, lodged almost exclusively in a single EU+ country. While Syrians accounted for 26 % of all applications in the EU+, they accounted for half of all repeated applications. Nevertheless, Syrians were also by far the largest group of first-time applicants in the EU+ (5 092 first applications). 

Syrians lodged similar numbers of applications in both January and February 2021 following periods of rapid increases (up by 42 % in December and again by 27 % in January) entirely driven by many Syrians lodging repeated applications, which increased 10-fold in December and again by 68 % going into January. Likewise, total applications by Syrians were stable in February because repeated applications stabilised somewhat.  

At the same time, Syrians lodged roughly stable numbers of first-time applications from November 2020 to February 2021. First-time applications in February 2021 were also substantially lower than in February 2020, which means that total applications by Syrians have risen beyond pre-COVID-19 levels only due to repeated applications. Among first-time applicants, (self-claimed) unaccompanied minors made up 5 % in February 2021, up from 3 % a year earlier.       

After an unusually low level in January, EU+ countries issued more first instance decisions to Syrians in February 2021 but still far behind applications. In line with the previous three months, almost 90 % of these decisions were positive. However, only half of the positive decisions granted refugee status (the remainder granting subsidiary protection), which was the lowest share since March 2018. As applications far outweighed decisions, Syrian cases pending at first instance significantly increased by the end of February 2021 to more than 50 000 (+ 14 % from the end of January).     

Nigeria – After being steadily among the main countries of origin since at least 2014, Nigeria was fifth in both January and February 2021. In February 2021, Nigerians lodged about 1 100 applications in the EU+, roughly stable from January and very close to the average for the preceding six months. This was substantially below the last pre-COVID-19 level in February 2020 (by 27 %). In fact, Nigerian applicants are increasingly important in the EU+ not because they lodge more applications but because other main citizenships lodge fewer, notably Venezuelans and Colombians. 

The vast majority of applications by Nigerians in February was roughly evenly distributed over three EU+ countries. One of these countries alone accounted for more than half of all repeated applications by Nigerians. Overall, repeated applications made up a relatively large part of all asylum applications by Nigerians: some 37 % in February and similar shares in the preceding months. Less than 1 % of all Nigerian applicants were UAMs.

As in previous months, EU+ countries issued significantly more first instance decisions to Nigerians in February (1 434) than applications received. While the number of Nigerian cases pending at first instance (about 14 400) hardly declined from January, it was lower than a year earlier (- 10 %). Almost 70 % of the cases had been pending for more than six months. At only 12 %, the EU+ recognition rate for Nigerians matched the rate for 2020. Close to nine out of 10 positive decisions issued to Nigerians at first instance granted refugee status, also in line with 2020. 

Ukraine – In February 2021, Ukrainians lodged 971 applications in EU+ countries, the most since March 2017 and substantially more than before the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe. Compared to January 2021, applications by Ukrainians rose by 72 %, driven by a rise in first-time applications by almost 80 %. This sudden increase placed Ukraine among the top origin countries for the first time in several years. Although Ukrainians can enter the EU visa-free, the development in their case contrasted with the consistently low level of applications lodged by citizens of many other visa-liberalised countries. The Ukrainian applicants hardly included any UAMs (less than 1 %). Almost two thirds of all applications by Ukrainians were lodged in only one EU+ country.

For the second month in a row, EU+ countries issued fewer first instance decisions to Ukrainians (561 in February). While this corresponded to only half the number of first instance decisions in both July and August 2020, it was not far below the pre-COVID-19 levels. The recognition rate for Ukrainians was 14 % in February, remaining within the range observed in previous months. Half of the positive decisions issued in February granted refugee status. Over much of 2020, more first instance decisions were issued to Ukrainians than applications lodged. This contributed to a significant decrease in Ukrainian cases pending at first instance, from about 8 000 at the end of February 2020 to about 6 300 at the end of February 2021. Cases that had been pending for more than six months declined disproportionately, by almost 2 100.

 


First instance decisions exceeded the level of applications

EU+ asylum authorities issued about 40 900 first instance decisions in February 2021, slightly more than in January (+ 7 %).4 Since October 2020, first instance decisions have fluctuated around an average of 41 000. As about 38 300 asylum applications were lodged in the EU+ in February 2021, first instance decisions exceeded applications by some 2 600. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe, there were more first instance decisions than applications in every month except October 2020 and January 2021.

In February 2021, the main nationalities in terms of first instance decisions were Syrian, Afghan, Venezuelan, Colombian and Iraqi who together accounted for two out of five decisions at first instance. For Venezuelans, decisions quadrupled following an unusually low number of decisions in January. Compared to the past several months, especially many decisions were issued to nationals of Serbia, Comoros, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Belarus, among others. In contrast, Colombians, Salvadorians and Hondurans received the least decisions since July 2020. 

Roughly stable recognition rates for Syrians and Afghans   

As in January, the EU+ recognition rate was 32 % in February 2021, matching the EU+ recognition rate for 2020 overall. In these rates, decisions that granted refugee status and subsidiary protection are considered positive decisions, while decisions granting national forms of protection are not. In line with previous months, 61 % of the positive decisions in February granted refugee status, while the remainder granted subsidiary protection. The recognition rates in February for Syrians (88 %) and Afghans (53 %) were similar to their recognition rates in 2020 overall. Apart from Syrians and Afghans, recognition rates were the highest for Eritreans (76 %), Somalis (57 %) and Malians (46 %), among nationalities that received at least 200 first instance decisions in February 2021. The lowest recognition rates were for applicants from Moldova (0 %), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1 %), Comoros (1 %), Serbia (2 %) and Armenia (3 %).

First instance cases pending for more than six months most often concerned Afghans

Based on latest available data (December 2020), about 837 000 cases were pending at all instances5 in the EU+. In December 2019 there were 1.02 million cases awaiting decisions, and so over the last year or so, EU+ countries have managed to decrease the backlog by about 185 000 (- 18 %). 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 82 000 between December 2019 and December 2020, and thereby declined in line with total pending cases (- 17 %).6

At the end of February 2021, some 405 600 cases were still pending at first instance, about as many as at the end of January 2021 (409 700) but down by 18 % from February 2020. Close to two thirds (63 %) were pending for more than six months at the end of February 2021, compared to 52 % a year earlier. One quarter of all cases pending at first instance concerned Syrians (14 %) and Afghans (11 %), followed by Pakistanis (5 %). However, of the cases that had been pending for more than six months, Afghans accounted for the largest share by far (11 %), ahead of Syrians (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: 20 April 2021



Notes
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[1]   Data on two EU+ countries were missing for February 2021.
[2]   This means that applications have not reached at least 90 % of the level in February 2020 at some point since.
[3]   Nationalities lodging more than 200 applications in the EU+ in February 2021.
[4]   Data on two EU+ countries were missing for February 2021.
[5]   Eurostat data on pending cases at all instances in December 2020 were available for 28 EU+ countries. EASO EPS data on pending cases at first instance in December 2020 were available for all 29 EU+ countries, and for 28 EU+ countries with regards to cases pending at the end of February 2021. 
[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). In some cases, EPS data on pending cases in appeal/review might be used instead.