EU asylum applications see massive drop during coronavirus pandemic

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During the coronavirus crisis, the number of new asylum applications in the European Union and four other countries experienced a severe drop in April, according to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which reported a decrease of 87 percent compared to January.

In April, authorities in 27 EU countries as well as the four countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which consists of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, received only 8,730 asylum applications.

According to EASO, this is the lowest number of applications since 2008. In January, these countries had still registered 65,692 applications.

Already in March, when individual European countries started to introduce restrictive measures against COVID-19 and the Schengen Area closed its external borders, the decrease in the number of new asylum applications was noticeable. Only about 35,000 of them were filed in the territory of the 31 states concerned. In the whole of 2019, the EU and EFTA countries received around 714,000 asylum applications.

According to EASO, most asylum seekers who completed an application in April, were from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Turkey. A particularly large drop in the number of submitted applications was recorded in the case of people from Venezuela and Colombia, who had no way to get to Europe due to the cancellation of air transport.

Compared to the beginning of this year, the number of applications from Venezuelans dropped by 98 percent and from Colombians by 99 percent in April, however, according to EASO, “there is no indication that there is less demand for international protection.”

On the contrary, European countries “should be prepared for increases in asylum applications in the medium term, including due to the repercussions of COVID-19 on low-income countries.”

Nearly 300,000 migrants were granted asylum in the EU in 2019, which was a slight decrease from the previous year.

Title image: Afghan asylum seekers share a dish of rice with lentils as they sit in their tent at the Beguinage Church in Brussels, Thursday Jan. 23, 2014. About 300 Afghans set up camp in the 17th-Century church at the end of last year because they are afraid of being expelled from Belgium and sent back to their homeland. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

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