The 28 countries of the European Union registered 580,800 new asylum applications in 2018, according to data released Thursday by the European Statistical Office Eurostat. This number is down 11% from 2017 and is only a small half of the historical peaks of 2015 and 2016.
Marked by the influx of refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, these two years had seen Europe register more than 1.2 million first-time asylum seekers. The sharp drop in 2017 and the new decline in 2018 now reduce asylum claims to their pre-crisis Syrian level.
110,500 requests in France
Last year, Syrians remained by far the main asylum seekers. Eurostat has counted 80,900, of which more than half have applied in Germany. The latter remains the most popular country in general, with 161,900 first asylum applications last year, ahead of France (110,500), Greece (65,000), Spain (52,700), Italy (49,200) and the United Kingdom (37,300).
Afghans (41,000) and Iraqis (39,600) are second and third, ahead of Pakistanis, Iranians, Nigerians and Turks. Venezuelans, whose country is plunged into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis, have, for their part, been almost 22,000 to apply for asylum in the EU in 2018, of which nearly 90% in Spain, where requests have increased last year by 60%.
Sharp decline in Italy
The leap is also clear in France, where it reaches 20% in one year, with the main claimants Afghans, in front of Albanians and Georgians. These increases, in a generally bearish context, can be explained by a deferral effect of Italy, where demand fell by 60% last year, most likely under the effect of the coming to power of the coalition between the Northern League and the Five Star Movement.
An 18% drop in requests is also noted in Germany. By the end of 2018, nearly 900,000 asylum applications from a state of the European Union were still awaiting treatment, including a small half in Germany.
For several years, member states have been trying to agree on a comprehensive reform of asylum rules in Europe. But the subject is so politically electrical that it is totally blocked. The member states have just confirmed that no reform would be possible before the European elections at the end of May, thus sending the subject back to the next term of office.