West Africans and Moroccans lodging more asylum applications

  • 27th May 2021

Along with several of the top nationalities, West Africans and Moroccans contributed to a recent rise in first-time applications for asylum in the EU+. This comes after months of high levels of irregular migration on the Western African route to the Canary Islands.

Analysis released by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) on asylum trends in March 2021 shows that about 40 200 applications for international protection were lodged in the EU+ in March 2021.1 This roughly stable total results from a significant rise in the number of first-time applications (+ 17%), offset by a simultaneous fall (- 31%) of repeated applications (in the same country). 

The nationalities lodging more first-time applications included top origin countries (Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia) but also Morocco and various West African countries2, which together lodged almost 1 000 more first-time applications in March than in February. This indicates that recent developments on the Western African migration route towards the Canary Islands have started translating into more asylum applications. Reaching 5 500 in March, total applications (first-time and repeated) by nationals of West African countries have grown by 37% from October 2020.  

Morocco and Guinea join the ten main origin countries

The top origin countries in March were Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria. As a result of increases in applications by around 30% from February, both Morocco (1 000 applications) and Guinea (980) joined the ten main origin countries. Together, the ten main origin countries accounted for more than half of all asylum applications lodged in the EU+. Applications by Ukrainians and Belarusians were lower but remained close to peak values in previous months.

Self-claimed unaccompanied minors lodged 1 400 applications in the EU+ in March 2021, substantially fewer than at the end of 2020. They represented 3% of the total applications in March, compared to 5% in December 2020. Afghans accounted for about two out of every five self-claimed unaccompanied minors, while Moroccans and West Africans collectively accounted for only 7% (one in every 14).

Substantial increase in decisions issued by EU+ asylum authorities

EU+ asylum authorities issued 53 300 first instance decisions in March, a quarter more than in February and marking the highest level since July 2020. This reflected a strong rise of decisions on repeated applications in the same country. This type of application had been lodged in large numbers during the preceding months, primarily by Syrians. Overall, first instance decisions in March therefore far exceeded applications.

The rise in decisions led to a slight fall of pending cases: some 387 200 cases were pending at first instance at the end of March, down by 5 % from the end of February. The recognition rate3 in the EU+ was 27 % in March 2021. Recognition rates were the highest for Eritreans (77%) and Yemenis (74%) but were below the EU+ level for Moroccans (9%) and West Africans, with the notable exception of Malians (34 %).

For more information and an interactive data visualisation, please visit the Latest Asylum Trends page.


Any further information may be obtained from the European Asylum Support Office on the following email address: press@easo.europa.eu


[1]   EEASO EPS data are preliminary and might differ from validated official statistics submitted to Eurostat at a later stage. Eurostat data are used in the annual EASO Asylum Report. The total EPS numbers exclude missing data for one EU+ country.
[2]   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.
[3]   This refers to the recognition rate for EU-regulated types of protection (refugee status and subsidiary protection) at first instance.