Only 665,000 people applied for asylum in the European Union last year, with the overall number of applicants being almost as low as before the migration crisis of 2015. But at the same time, nearly half of all E.U. states have seen an increase in applications, according to a new report by the European Asylum Support Office.
The Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the EU+, which was released on Monday, explained how migration routes have played a key role in the variation in asylum application numbers throughout the E.U., as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
France, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Germany received the highest number of applications in 2018, with the latter receiving the most at 184,180, according to the report. However, Germany and Italy were the only countries in the top five that saw their asylum application numbers decrease by 17 and 53 percent accordingly.
At the same time, France saw its number of applicants increase for the fourth year in a row to 120,425. Greece also saw its asylum application numbers increase to 66,965, while Spain’s rose from 36,605 in 2017 to 54,050 in 2018, stated the report.
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The variation in application numbers between countries can be put down to migrant flows that form when a large number of people from one country choose to lodge their asylum claims in one specific E.U. state. Germany has the highest volume of applicants because it is the main location for asylum claims for six out of the 10 primary migrant sources – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, and Turkey.
Syria remained the main country of origin for migrants for the sixth consecutive year, with 85,575 applications in 2018. The conflict Syria has been in for the past seven years, forcing people to seek refuge outside of the country. Syrian applications dropped 21 percent from 2017 to 2018, yet they still lodge twice as many applications as any other nation.
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While asylum claims from Syria have decreased, South American refugee numbers are on the rise. Venezuelans lodged nearly twice as many applications in the first five months of 2019 as they did during the same period in 2018, with the majority of those in Spain.
Venezuela has been going through an economic collapse due to political instability, which has seen almost 3 million people flee their homes with many choosing to lodge their asylum applications in Spain because they speak the same language.
Although many countries saw an increase in asylum applications, this year was the first year that the number of asylum applications dropped to the pre-migrant crisis levels of 2014.