EU Sees Highest Asylum Applications in Seven Years

EU Sees Highest Asylum Applications in Seven Years

EU Sees Highest Asylum Applications in Seven Years

According to official statistics, the European Union (EU) witnessed a staggering influx of over 1.14 million asylum applications in 2023, marking the highest number recorded since 2016. Concerns surrounding migration have the potential to sway voters towards far-right political parties during the forthcoming EU elections.

In 2023, the European Union and its closely aligned countries, Norway and Switzerland, witnessed a record-breaking number of asylum applications. More than 1.14 million people sought asylum, marking the highest number of applications in recent years since the influx of displaced individuals in 2015 and 2016.

Among the EU nations, Germany received the largest share of asylum applications, with over 334,000 individuals seeking protection. This influx of migrants has also had political implications, as the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has gained support, reaching 19% popularity by focusing on the topic of migration.

Following Germany, France received 167,000 applications, while Spain and Italy followed closely with 162,000 and 136,000 applications, respectively. Interestingly, Cyprus, with a population of 1.2 million, received the highest number of applications relative to its population, totaling 12,000.

These figures highlight the ongoing challenges and complexities surrounding migration and asylum within the European Union.

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Origins of countries

In 2023, Syrian nationals continued to lead in the number of applications submitted, totaling 181,000. Afghanistan followed as the second largest country of origin, with 114,000 applications.

Last year, there was an 82% rise in the number of Turkish citizens seeking international protection in the EU, surpassing 100,000.

The EUAA admits that its annual report does not provide a comprehensive overview of the situation across the European Union.

The EU has granted “temporary protection” to the 4.4 million Ukrainians seeking refuge due to Russia’s invasion, excluding them from the asylum application numbers.

The number of Palestinians seeking asylum in the EU reached a new high of over 11,000, up from around 6,700 in 2022.

Alberto-Horst Neidhardt, a senior policy analyst at the European Policy Centre, highlighted that the rise in applications is not surprising given the increasing geopolitical instability worldwide, particularly in regions close to Europe.

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‘A lawful entitlement’

The latest “Global Trends” report from the UN Refugee Agency reveals a staggering increase in the number of forcibly displaced individuals worldwide, reaching 110 million people. This represents a rise of over 1.6 million people since the end of 2022.

Catherine Woollard, the director of the European Council of Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) NGO, highlighted that a substantial portion of these displaced individuals, approximately 10%, seek refuge in Europe. However, when we consider the global scale of displacement and the proportion of individuals who actually make their way to Europe, other countries and regions are handling much larger numbers compared to what Europe is handling.

In 2023, the EUAA approved 43% of asylum applications in the European Union. Additionally, if we take into account the number of individuals who receive protection status under national law, not just international law, the percentage increases to well over 50%. This indicates that the majority of those who arrive in the EU are genuinely in need and possess a legitimate entitlement to protection under the law.

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Revamping asylum procedures in the European Union

In December, the European Union member states and the European Parliament reached a significant agreement on revising the bloc’s asylum and migration laws.

The revision involved measures such as expediting the screening process for irregular arrivals, establishing border detention facilities, and accelerating the deportation of asylum-seekers whose applications have been turned down.

Additionally, the introduction of a “solidarity mechanism” enabled the relocation of certain asylum seekers among EU countries, with non-participating nations providing financial or material support to those that did.

European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas hailed the agreement as a “breakthrough,” despite strong opposition from the governments of Hungary and Poland at the time.

Neidhardt remarked, “It is important to note that we will only implement these changes starting in 2026. There is also a concern that voters may have overly high expectations, assuming that the reforms will instantly resolve the issues related to migration.”

Elections for the European Parliament

As campaigning for the upcoming European Parliament elections in June has intensified, authorities made the latest data on asylum seekers public, with migration emerging as a key concern for voters across various EU nations.

According to the most recent survey conducted by “Europe Elects,” the AfD is expected to secure 22 seats in the European Parliament from Germany, positioning it as the second-largest group after the Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union.

Neidhardt anticipates that far-right parties in Germany and other countries will leverage these asylum statistics to advance their political agendas.

He also noted that mainstream parties, including the center-right, center-left, and liberals, are heavily relying on migration reforms to persuade voters that they are effectively addressing migration issues.

The AfD’s campaign revolves around a pledge to tighten controls on migrant entry into the EU and Germany.

Similar far-right parties in France, Austria, Italy, and other EU nations are aiming to achieve significant electoral victories. Should these parties from various countries set aside their disagreements and unite in the European Parliament, they could potentially become a dominant force in EU legislative processes.

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