Asylum applications in EU at highest level since 2015/16 crisis

Asylum applications in EU at highest level since 2015/16 crisis
A German police officer checks a detained migrant during an operation to prevent illegal migration along the German-Polish border near Frost, Germany, 11 October 2023. Due to the increasing number of refugees arriving in Germany via the Balkan and Mediterranean routes, as well as war refugees from Ukraine, many refugee shelters in Germany have already reached their capacity limit. EPA-EFE/Filip Singer ATTENTION: This Image is part of a PHOTO SET

BERLIN, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Asylum applications in the European Union jumped 18% to 1.14 million in 2023, the highest level since the 2015-2016 migrant crisis, data from the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) showed on Wednesday.

The new data will likely fuel an already heated debate about migration and far-right sentiment ahead of a slew of local and national votes across the continent as well as European Parliament elections in June.

Syrians and Afghans remained the largest applicant groups, according to the EUAA data. In a new trend, Turkish nationals made up the third largest applicant group, lodging 82% more applications than in the previous year.

The number of Palestinians applying for asylum rose to a record high of nearly 11,600 in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, it said, noting it was difficult to correctly register their number given a majority of EU member countries do not recognise Palestine as a state.

Germany was once more the leading destination of asylum seekers in the EU, receiving nearly a third of all applications, while Cyprus received by far the most applications in relative terms – one per 78 inhabitants.

While the 2023 asylum applications are just under 2016 levels, they come on top of the 4.4 million Ukrainians that have sought refuge from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the European Union – and do not need to formally apply.

The EUAA data comes a month after the European Union’s border protection agency, Frontex, registered the highest rise in irregular border crossings since 2016.

Such high levels have galvanized discussion about how to curb migration as some local authorities say they are overwhelmed.

The European Union has tightened external borders and its asylum laws since the 2015-2016 crisis, and struck deals in the Middle East and North Africa to have more people stay there.

The bloc also reached a landmark agreement in December on new rules designed to share the cost and work of hosting migrants more evenly and to limit the numbers of people coming in. But some parties say those rules do not go far enough.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Muralikumar Anantharaman)


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