Asylum claims in EU expected to exceed 1 million this year as member states struggle to cope with influx

FILE - Hundreds of migrants prepared to spend the night outside an overcrowded asylum seeker center in Ter Apel, northern Netherlands. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

The European Union is on course to receive more than 1 million asylum applications in 2023 after figures published by the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) on Tuesday showed 519,000 applications had been made by the end of June.

Asylum applications have soared across the bloc in the last two years, with a 28 percent increase in claims in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2022, while last year’s total was 53 percent higher than the previous year.

The influx has resulted in a considerable backlog as member states struggle to both process asylum claims in a timely manner and accommodate the mass of new arrivals in their respective countries. According to the EUAA, the number of cases awaiting decisions has increased by 34 percent from last year.

Asylum claim figures are at their second-highest in the first half of the year in the bloc’s recent history, surpassed only by the first half of 2016 during the initial migrant crisis.

The figures published by the EUAA do not account for the approximately 4 million Ukrainian refugees who have entered Europe since the beginning of the conflict with Russia last February.

“Together, these parallel trends pose significant challenges to EU+ asylum and reception systems authorities, so much so that by June 2023, the EUAA was offering operational assistance to 13 Member States,” a press release by the EU asylum agency read.

Syria remained the most popular country of origin for asylum claimants in the first half of the year with 67,000 applications attributed to its nationals, up 47 percent over the same period last year. This is the highest figure received from Syrian claimants since 2016, with the majority of applications (62 percent) being submitted in Germany.

Just over four in ten applicants (41 percent) were granted either refugee status or subsidiary protection; however, the EUAA did not provide figures for what percentage of those refused asylum were deported from the bloc.

Again, Syrians were most likely to be granted international protection, with 95 percent of all asylum claims approved, while Afghan nationals were approved at a rate of 58 percent.

On the contrary, just 28 percent of Turkish and 35 percent of Russian applications were approved.

The European Union remains split on how to handle the growing asylum crisis, an issue that ultimately brought about the downfall of the Dutch government earlier this year.

The proposed EU migration pact, which will see member states obligated to take their fair share of asylum claimants or face financial penalties, remains firmly opposed by both Poland and Hungary, the former of which is planning to put the topic to a referendum alongside the country’s national elections in October.

Several member states have revealed their welfare systems are saturated by the number of asylum seekers they are being expected to accommodate and process, including Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

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