Syrians top number of refugees seeking asylum in EU

Despite a seven percent drop in the number of asylum applications in 2016, Syrian nationals account for over a quarter of the 1.3 million applicants, according to the European Asylum Support Office.

Photo by: AP Archive
Photo by: AP Archive

The war in Syria continues to be the main reason for thousands of asylum applications in Europe.

Despite the number of asylum applications falling by more than seven percent in 2016 compared to 2015, Syrian nationals still account for over a quarter of the 1.3 million applicants, a report released by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) said on Wednesday.  

The report said that the war in Syria continues to be the main reason for thousands of asylum applications in Europe.

Jadwiga Maczynska, EASO information and analysis coordinator, said that the EU-Turkey agreement reached last year had significantly reduced irregular migration flows from Turkey to Greece.

However, she added that the migrants were taking different routes and were mostly arriving in Italy via the Mediterranean Sea.

A March 2016 deal between Turkey and the EU envisaged a "one-for-one" formula, under which failed asylum seekers in Europe would be returned to Turkey, while Syrian refugees would be resettled in EU states under a quota system.

A report released by the European Commission in April found the numbers promised in the deal have not been realised.

The refugee deal was linked to the issue of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the EU.

One-third of asylum seekers​ under 18

Wednesday's report also revealed that the main host countries in 2016 were Germany, Italy, France, Greece and Austria. Most of the asylum seekers came from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria. About a third of asylum seekers were under the age of 18.

The report also indicated that decisions concerning asylum had significantly increased in 2016 as EU member states issued over a million rulings, an 84 percent increase compared to 2015. More than half of the decisions were positive.

However, as of the end of December 2016, some 1.1 million asylum seekers were still waiting for a ruling, and 56 percent of applications were pending for a period of more than six months.

"In 2016, more than 65,000 unaccompanied minors (or UAMs) applied for international protection in the EU, 37 percent less than the previous year. Afghan nationals lodged 37 percent of all UAM applications in the EU," the report said. The EU consists all states in Europe  –EU members and non-EU members combined.

Afghan nationals account for the largest share of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum. (AP Archive)

2017 shows further decrease

The latest figures for the first months of 2017 show a further decrease in the number of lodged applications for international protection compared to the monthly numbers reported during 2016, 2015 and second half of 2014.

In first four months of 2017, together with Syria, three other countries of origin – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Iraq – represented about one-third of all applicants in the EU and other European states. 

"Afghan nationals still accounted for the largest share among unaccompanied minors. At the end of May there were more than 595 000 cases awaiting decision at first instance, of which 59 percent were pending for longer than six months," the report said.

TRTWorld, AA