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Coronavirus measures bring sharp drop in EU asylum applications

First-time applicants were down by almost 70% in the EU in Q2 2020, Eurostat figures showed, while Cyprus marked the highest number of applications compared to population size


First-time asylum applicants in the EU recorded a sharp drop of almost 70% during the second quarter of 2020, mainly as a result of coronavirus emergency measures imposed by member states from March, Eurostat figures showed Wednesday.

Between April and June, some 46,500 first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the member states of the EU, marking a 69% decrease compared with 150,100 recorded in the first quarter of 2020 and down by 68% compared with the second quarter of 2019 (143,700 applications).

With 7,700 first-time applicants between April and June 2020, Syrians remained the largest group of persons seeking international protection in the EU member states, followed by Afghans (4,200 first-time applicants) and Venezuelans (3,000). Citizens of these countries accounted for almost one-third (32%) of all first-time asylum applicants in the second quarter of 2020.

The highest number of first-time asylum applicants was registered in Germany (with 14,200 first-time applicants, or 31% of all first-time applicants in the EU Member States), followed by France (8,900, or 19%), Spain (7,200, or 15%). These three member states together recorded almost two-thirds (65%) of all first-time asylum applicants in the EU in the second quarter of 2020.

Compared with the population of each member state, the highest rate of registered first-time applicants during the second quarter of 2020 was observed in Cyprus (989 first-time applicants per million population), followed by Slovenia (441) and Greece (376). By contrast, the lowest rates were observed in Hungary and Poland (2 applicants per million population each) and Estonia (3 applicants per million population). In total in the EU as a whole, there were 104 first-time asylum applicants per million population in the second quarter of 2020.

Pending applications for international protection are those that have been made at any time and are still under consideration by the relevant 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.

At the end of June 2020, 841,600 applications for asylum protection in the EU Member States were under consideration by the national authorities, a decrease of 9% compared with both June 2019 and March 2020. With 282,900 pending applications at the end of June 2020, Germany had the largest share in the EU (34% of the EU total), ahead of France (161,800, or 19%) and Spain (118,000, or 14%). These three member states together accounted for two-thirds (67%) of all pending applications in the EU at the end of June 2020.

World becoming less tolerant of migrants, poll shows

The world is becoming less tolerant of migrants, according to a poll released on Wednesday as Europe prepared to unveil a new asylum plan in the wake of a blaze at an overcrowded camp in Greece that left thousands without shelter.

Seven European countries, led by North Macedonia, Hungary, Serbia and Croatia, topped the Gallup index of the world’s least-accepting countries.

But the sharpest changes in attitudes were in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, which have seen an influx of Venezuelans fleeing turmoil at home.

Canada was the most welcoming country toward migrants, followed by Iceland and New Zealand, according to the index based on more than 140,000 interviews in 145 countries and regions.

The poll asked people their views about having migrants living in their country, becoming their neighbors and marrying into their families.

Index scores ranged from 1.49 in North Macedonia to 8.46 in Canada, just below the maximum possible score of 9.

Gallup migration expert Julie Ray said the slight global fall in acceptance – 5.21 in 2019 down from 5.34 in 2016 – was driven by marked changes in Latin American countries.

Peru’s score tumbled to 3.61 from 6.33 in 2016, while the number of Colombians who said migrants living in their country was a good thing dropped to 29% from 61%.

The first Gallup Migrant Acceptance Index was conducted amid the backlash following the 2015 migrant crisis in Europe when more than a million people headed to the continent fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond.

EU countries have long been at loggerheads over how to handle the influx of migrants, many of whom arrive in Mediterranean countries after perilous boat journeys.

The bloc’s executive will unveil a plan on Wednesday which would legally oblige all members to host their share of refugees – something rejected by Poland and Hungary among others.

The proposal has been brought forward because of a fire on the Greek island of Lesvos a fortnight ago which destroyed a migrant camp holding more than 12,000 people – four times the number it was supposed to.

Among European countries, only Sweden and Ireland made the Gallup top 10 of most-accepting countries.

Ray said some people would be surprised by the positive attitudes in the United States, where President Donald Trump has made curbing immigration a cornerstone of his policy.

“Despite the fact that immigration is such a hot topic in the US, Americans are mostly very accepting of migrants,” she said.

The United States ranked sixth in the index just behind Sierra Leone. Ray said Trump supporters were far more accepting of migrants than the global average, scoring 7.10.

Worldwide, the index showed acceptance of migrants was greater among younger generations, people with higher levels of education and those living in urban rather than rural areas.

[with reporting from Thomson Reuters Foundation]

Cyprus  |  Eurostat  |  migration  |  asylum  |  coronavirus  | 

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