Cyprus bucked an EU-wide trend as it recorded a 70% increase in asylum applications in 2018 while overall applications in the European Union dropped to pre-migration crisis levels.
Figures released by Eurostat on Thursday confirm a downward trend recorded by EU border and coast guard agency Frontex, which estimated that around 150,000 people entered the EU through irregular crossings last year, the fewest in five years and far below the peak of more than a million recorded in 2015.
Eurostat said that in 2018, the number of first-time asylum seekers fell to around 580,000, marking an 11% fall from 2017 and a return to 2014 pre-crisis levels.
However, applications rose by 70% in Cyprus, the biggest increase among the EU’s 28 states and the highest number of applications relative to population.
Germany last year remained the prime destination for asylum applicants, followed by France, Greece, Spain and Italy. The latter recorded the biggest drop in applications last year.
At the peak of the crisis, the number of first-time asylum seekers in the EU exceeded 1.2 million.
Syrians (80,900 first-time applicants), Afghans (41,000) and Iraqis (39,600) continued to be the main citizenships of people seeking international protection in the EU Member States in 2018, together accounting for almost 30% of all first-time applicants.
With 161,900 first-time applicants registered in 2018, Germany accounted for 28% of all first-time applicants in the EU Member States.
It was followed by France (110,500, or 19%), Greece (65,000, or 11%), Spain (52,700, or 9%), Italy (49,200, or 8%) and the United Kingdom (37,300, or 6%).
Among Member States with more than 5,000 first-time asylum seekers in 2018, the number of first time applicants, rose most compared with the previous year in Cyprus (+70%, or 3,100 more first-time asylum seekers in 2018 than in 2017) and Spain (+60%, or 19,700 more), ahead of Belgium (+29%, or 4,100 more), the Netherlands (+27%, or 4,400 more), France (+20%, or 18,500 more) and Greece (+14%, or 8,000 more).
In contrast, the largest relative decreases were recorded in Italy (-61%, or 77,400 fewer), Austria (-49%, or 11,100 fewer), Sweden (-19%, or 4,100 fewer) and Germany (-18%, or 36,400 fewer).
Syrian (14% of the total number of first-time applicants) was the main citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU
Member States in 2018, a position it has held each year since 2013.
Of the 80,900 Syrians who applied for asylum for the first-time in the EU in 2018, more than half were registered in Germany (44,200, or 55%). Syrian was the main citizenship of asylum seekers in eight EU Member States.
With 41,000 first-time applicants (or 7% of the EU total) in 2018, Afghan was the second main citizenship of
asylum seekers in the EU Member States. Almost 29% of Afghans applied in Greece (11,800).
Afghan was the main citizenship of asylum seekers in five EU Member States. Iraqi (7% of the total number of first-time applicants) was the third main citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States in 2018. Of the 39,600 Iraqis seeking asylum protection for the first-time in the EU in 2018, more than 41% applied in Germany (16,300). Iraqi was the main citizenship of asylum seekers in two EU Member States.
The highest number of registered first-time applicants in 2018 relative to the population of each Member State was recorded in Cyprus (8,805 first-time applicants per million population), ahead of Greece (6,051), Malta (4,276) and Luxembourg (3,694).
In contrast, the lowest numbers were recorded in Slovakia (28 applicants per million population), Poland (63), Hungary (65), Estonia (68) and Latvia (91). In 2018, in the EU as a whole, there were 1,133 first-time asylum applicants per million population.
Pending applications for international protection are applications that have been made at any time and are still under consideration by the national authorities at the end of the reference period. In other words, they refer to the “stock” of applications for which decisions are still pending. This statistic is intended to measure the workload of the national authorities.
At the end of 2018, 878,600 applications for international protection in the EU Member States were still under consideration by the national authorities (excluding Finland, as data not available). At the end of 2017, this figure was slightly higher (927,000). Germany had the largest share of applications pending in the EU at the end of 2018 (384,800, or 44% of the EU total), ahead of Italy (103,000, or 12%), Spain (78,700, or 9%) and Greece (76,300, or 9%).