Latest Asylum Trends

Latest asylum trends – March 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.*
 
Source: EASO EPS, March 2019 – March 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 40 200 applications for international protection were lodged in the EU+ in March 2021, roughly stable compared to previous months.
  • Applications are still at about two thirds of pre-COVID-19 levels. EU+ asylum offices remain open and fully functional after implementing health-sensitive working practices,1 and so the decline in applications is almost certainly due to closed borders and reduced mobility.
  • In March, first-time applications increased by about 4 700 (+ 17 %). This reflected rising first-time applications by Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and Somalis but also by Moroccans and a range of West African nationalities. 
  • A fall of repeated applications in the same country (- 31 %) partly offset the rise in first-time applications. This was driven by Syrians lodging far fewer repeated applications than in previous months. 
  • Self-claimed unaccompanied minors represented 3 % of all applicants in the EU+. About two out of every five were Afghans.
  • Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis lodged the most applications for international protection overall. As a result of strong increases in applications, Morocco and Guinea joined the 10 main origin countries. 
  • Ukrainians and Belarusians lodged applications at a level close to the peaks of previous months.
  • EU+ asylum authorities issued far more first instance decisions in March (53 300) than in February (42 100), driven by more decisions on repeated applications. Two out of five decisions were issued to Syrians, Afghans, Venezuelans and Colombians.
  • Of all decisions that were issued by asylum authorities in March 2021, some 27 % granted EU regulated protection. Of the positive decisions, three out of five granted refugee status, while the remainder granted subsidiary protection.
  • Recognition rates were the highest for Eritreans (77 %) and Yemenis (74 %). Applicants from West Africa had recognition rates below the EU+ level, except Malians (34 %).
  • Some 387 200 cases were pending at first instance at the end of March, slightly fewer than in February. Close to two thirds of them have been pending for more than six months.
 

 

West Africans and Moroccans contributed to a significant rise in first-time applications for asylum  

On the surface, the asylum situation in the EU+ hardly changed over the course of March 2021: some 40 200 applications for international protection were lodged in March,2 in line with the preceding months and seemingly stable from February (+ 4 %). Below this surface, however, two significant changes occurred that largely offset each other. First-time applications increased by about 4 700 (+ 17 %), the first rise in five months. At the same time, repeated applications in the same country decreased by about 3 100 (- 31 %), the first decline since September 2020.

Two notable factors contributed to the rise in first-time applications. Nationals of several top origin countries lodged at least 20 % more first-time applications in March than in February: Syrians (+ 1 400), Afghans (+ 670), Iraqis (+ 290) and Somalis (+ 310). The second factor likely highlights recent developments on the Western African migration route,3 as applicants from a range of West African countries lodged significantly more first-time applications. While the largest increases occurred for Mali (+ 200; see country focus), Guinea (+ 190) and Nigeria (+ 150), first-time applications also rose for Côte d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone. In addition, a spike in first-time applications by Moroccans (+ 220; see country focus) might be linked to the Western African route, while Moroccans also arrive to the EU+ via the Western Mediterranean route.4 Altogether, applicants from West Africa  and Morocco lodged almost 1 000 more first-time applications in March than in February. This is part of a longer-term development: at 5 500 in March, total applications by nationals of West African countries were the highest since February 2020 and had grown by 37 % from October 2020.

The fall in repeated applications was primarily driven by Syrians, who lodged 3 700 fewer repeated applications in March than in February (see country focus). More repeated applications were instead lodged by Nigerian, Haitian and Macedonian applicants. The overall share of repeated applications decreased from the peak value of 26 % in February 2021 to 17 % in March.
   

Morocco and Guinea become main countries of origin

Despite lodging fewer repeated applications in March 2021, Syrians remained by far the largest group of applicants, with 7 800 applications in total (- 23 % from February). Total applications by Afghans reached 4 500 in March (+ 18 %), followed by Iraqis (1 600), Pakistanis (1 500), Nigerians (1 400; the most since February 2020), Turks and Somalis (1 200 each). As a result of increases in applications by around 30 % from February, Morocco (1 000) and Guinea (980) joined the 10 main origin countries in March (see country focus). In contrast, Venezuelans (1 000) continued to lodge fewer applications – as did Colombians (940), so that Colombia was not among the 10 main origin countries for the first time in two years (apart from two months after the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe). Together, the 10 main origin countries accounted for more than half of all asylum applications lodged in the EU+. 

While Ukraine was not among these 10 countries in March, applications by Ukrainians (840) remained relatively high, not far from the peak value in February (970). Similarly, Belarusians (240) lodged almost as many applications in March as during the peak in December (250). Nationals of Azerbaijan (130) lodged the most applications in six months, and Egyptians (290) the most since February 2020. However, conflicts or internal strife were not always associated with higher numbers of asylum applications in the EU+: Ethiopians lodged a roughly stable number of applications (250) despite the escalating conflict in the Tigray region. Applications by citizens of Algeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Palestine and Sudan all remained within the range of applications in previous months, and Libyans (120) even lodged the fewest applications since June 2020. Very few applications were received from nationals of Myanmar and South Sudan.

Self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs) lodged 1 400 applications in the EU+ in March 2021, in line with levels in January and February 2021 but substantially below levels at the end of 2020. UAMs represented 3 % of the total applications in March, compared to 5 % in December 2020. As in previous months, Afghans accounted for about two out of every five self-claimed UAMs. Syrians and Pakistanis accounted for 15 % and 6 %, respectively, while Moroccans and West Africans collectively made up only 7 % of UAMs in March (one in every 14).
 

 

Focus on relevant countries of origin of applicants 

Syria – In March 2021, Syrians continued to lodge by far the most applications in the EU+ (7 800). The substantial decrease from February (- 23 %) can be considered a “return to normal”: while there had been a rapid increase in repeated applications lodged by Syrians in the previous months, in March the number of repeats fell by three quarters. At the same time, Syrians were also by far the largest group of first-time applicants in the EU+ (6 500). In fact, this was the highest number of first-time Syrian applicants in over one year. This means that the overall decrease from February was mainly due to fewer repeated applications. Unaccompanied minors accounted for a mere 3 % of all first-time applicants in March 2021, down from 7 % a year earlier.       
EU+ countries issued the highest number of first instance decisions to Syrians in March 2021 in almost four years. This peak is associated with the sharp rise in repeated applications that took place in the previous months, for which over 8 500 decisions were made. While in the previous four months, almost 90 % of the decisions issued to Syrians were positive, in March the recognition rate was reduced to 36 %. It is worth noting that the number of positive decisions remained stable, but the number of negative decisions (mainly for repeated applications) was thirteen times that of the previous month. 
With decisions far outweighing applications, the stock of Syrian cases pending at first instance decreased by the end of March 2021 to approximately 50 000 (- 9 % from the end of February). There was also an increase in the number of withdrawn applications (670), with at least two thirds of those being implicit withdrawals.     

Morocco – After remaining rather steady over the last months, the number of asylum applications lodged by Moroccans in the EU+ peaked in March 2021 (1 000). This represented a 31 % increase compared to February 2021 and surpassed pre-COVID-19 levels by about 15 %.6 Moroccans were among the nationalities most often detected illegally crossing EU+ external borders.7 Detected illegal border-crossings significantly exceeded asylum applications until January 2021, implying that many Moroccans arriving illegally did not apply for asylum.
While the share of repeated applicants was the lowest since July 2020, the number of first-time applicants was the highest since January 2020. The share of unaccompanied minors was also the lowest in five years (4 %).
EU+ countries issued roughly stable numbers of first instance decisions to Moroccans in recent months (476 in March). Nonetheless, the backlog remained stable with a small increase of 4 %. At the end of March 2021, there were 4 300 pending cases for Moroccan applicants at first instance, most of which have been awaiting a decision for more than six months. As in the last months, fewer than one in 10 Moroccans received refugee status or subsidiary protection. 

Mali – In March 2021, Malians lodged the most asylum applications in the EU+ since October 2017 (920). A rising trend in Malian applications in the last months is a new phenomenon because Malians had been lodging fewer applications since a peak of 1 100 in early 2017, with numbers decreasing further during the COVID-19 pandemic. After reaching a historical low in May 2020 (26), Malians started to lodge more applications in June. By January 2021, Malian applications had returned to pre-pandemic levels. 
Following a four-month gradual increase, the number of first-time applicants in March was the highest since November 2017. Lately, the absolute number of repeated applications has risen slightly although the share of repeats has remained constant at around 13 %. 
In March, Malians were issued fewer first instance decisions (330) than in the three previous months. Nevertheless, total first instance decisions in the first quarter of this year were higher than in the first quarter of 2020. Still, since June 2020 there have been more Malian applications than decisions issued to them, which contributed to the backlog. By the end of March 2021, the stock of Malian cases pending at first instance was close to 5 200, higher than a year earlier. Over the past six months the EU+ recognition rate for Malian applicants was 38 %, rising considerably compared to previous six-month periods.

 


Rise in first instance decisions due to decisions on repeated applications 

EU+ asylum authorities issued substantially more first instance decisions in March 2021 than in February: increasing by 27 %, first instance decisions reached 53 300,8 the highest level since July 2020. This reflected over three times more first instance decisions on repeated applications (12 300), which had been lodged in large numbers since December 2020, primarily by Syrians (see country focus). In March, first instance decisions therefore far exceeded applications. In addition, unusually many applications were withdrawn in March (6 200), the highest level since 2017. In most cases, they were withdrawn implicitly because authorities could not locate the applicant and concluded that the applicant had abandoned the procedure. 

Decisions received by Syrians more than doubled from February, which represented most of the total increase in first instance decisions. As a result, Syrians accounted for a quarter of all first instance decisions issued in March 2021, far ahead of Afghans, Venezuelans and Colombians who together accounted for one sixth. Apart from Syrians, also Bangladeshis, Nigerians and Georgians received the most decisions in at least a year.

Recognition rates for applicants from West Africa below the EU+ level

As very few repeated applications received a positive decision (3 %), the EU+ recognition rate was only 27 % in March 2021, down from 32 % in February, January and in 2020 overall. In these rates, decisions that granted refugee status and subsidiary protection are considered positive decisions, but exclude decisions granting national forms of protection. In line with previous months, 62 % of all positive decisions in February granted refugee status, while the remainder granted subsidiary protection. 

Similarly, due to more negative decisions on repeated applications, the recognition rate for Syrians was only 36 % in March. The positive decisions on Syrian applications were roughly evenly split between refugee status and subsidiary protection. Among nationalities receiving at least 200 decisions in March, recognition rates were the highest for Eritreans (77 %) and Yemenis (74 %). They were especially low for applicants from Moldova (0 %), Vietnam (0 %), Nepal (1 %), Bangladesh and Georgia (3 % each). With the exception of Malians (34 %), West African nationals who received at least 200 decisions had recognition rates below the EU+ level, including Gambians (7 %), Senegalese (7 %), Nigerians (11 %), Mauritanians (12 %), Guineans and Ivorians (both 25 %). 

Slight decline of cases pending at first instance 

Based on latest available data (December 2020), about 856 000 cases were pending at all instances9 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 166 000 (- 16 %). 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, declining in line with total pending cases (- 17 %).10

At first instance, the rise in decisions translated into a slight fall of pending cases: at the end of March 2021, some 387 200 cases were still pending at first instance, down by 5 % from the end of February 2021 and down by 20 % from March 2020. Accounting for close to two thirds (64 %) at the end of March, cases pending for more than six months fell roughly accordingly (- 4 %). One third of all cases pending at first instance concerned Syrians (13 %), Afghans (11 %), Pakistanis (5 %) and Colombians (4 %).


 

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 May 2021



Notes
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[1]   EASO, COVID-19 emergency measures in asylum and reception systems, Issue 3, 7 December 2020.
[2]   Data on one EU+ country were missing for March 2021.
[3]   See Frontex, Situation at EU external borders – Detections down because of drop in Eastern Mediterranean, 19 April 2021.
[4]  Ibid.
[5]   According to the United Nations Population Division, Western Africa includes the following countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. 
[6]   Average from September 2019 to February 2020.
[7]  Frontex, Detections of illegal border-crossings statistics, last updated 7 April 2021.
[8]  Data on one EU+ country were missing for March 2021.
[9]  Eurostat data on pending cases at all instances in December 2020 were available for all 29 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 March 2021. 
[10]  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.

* 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".