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In 2018, most applications for asylum were lodged in Germany, France, Greece, Italy and Spain  (Figure 6). In 2017, Italy received the second highest number of applications, but in 2018 applications in Italy fell below the level of France and Greece. Together, these five countries accounted for almost three quarters of all applications lodged in the EU+. 

For the seventh consecutive year, in 2018 Germany received the most applications (184 180), despite a 17 % decrease compared to 2017. Notwithstanding this decrease, the share of applications lodged in Germany remained quite constant at 28 % of all applications lodged in the EU+.  Nevertheless, the gap with other EU+ countries remained considerable: Germany received some 64 000 applications more than the second receiving country, France. Applications in France increased for the fourth consecutive year, reaching 120 425 in 2018, the highest level recorded in France so far. Greece became the country with the third-highest number of applications lodged in the EU+ in 2018, increasing for the fifth consecutive year, to 66 965 applications. A significant change occurred in Italy, where applications decreased by 53 %, and as a consequence Italy changed from being the second main receiving country, to the fourth one in the top five.  Spain remained at fifth position, but with applications increasing from below 36 605 in 2017 to 54 050 in 2018.

The overall 10 % decrease in applications between 2017 and 2018 was reflected in just over half of all EU+ countries.  In the other half, applications increased (Figure 7). In some countries, increases were substantial. It is important to look at those changes in both absolute and relative terms. High increases in the absolute numbers of applicants automatically represent an increased workload to process those cases. However, even an increase in seemingly lower absolute numbers may pose a significant challenge for a country if, in relative terms, it is significant compared to the volume of applicants previously received by the country.

Main destination countries of applicants in 2017 (left) and 2018 (right)


Figure 6: In 2018 Germany still received the most applications


A few countries stood out because of significant decreases. Italy was the country with the most considerable absolute decrease, with 69 000 applications fewer than in 2017, which is a reduction of more than 50 %.  Nigerian applicants decreased the most in Italy (from about 25 500 in 2017 to about 7 000 in 2018), as well as Bangladeshi applicants which more than halved. These two citizenships used to arrive irregularly in Italy via the Central Mediterranean route. In Germany, over 38 000 fewer applications were lodged (- 17 %), spread out over a range of citizenships, including Eritreans (- 45 %), Afghans (- 34 %), Somalis (- 25 %) and Iraqi (- 24 %), while Nigerians (+ 33 %), Iranians (+ 28 %) and Turks (+ 25 %) lodged more applications.

Austria recorded 10 000 fewer applications than in 2017 (- 46 %), also spread out over many of the main citizenships of origin, including Pakistanis, stateless applicants, Syrians, Iraqi, etc. In relative terms, the largest decrease occurred in Hungary (- 80 % or - 2 720 applications). Apart from Italy,  Romania, Estonia and Latvia also received half as many applications in 2018 compared to 2017. 

In contrast, other EU+ countries dealt with large increases in the number of applications lodged.  For example, three of the top five receiving countries received more applications.  France dealt with some 21 000 applications more (+ 21 %), where Georgian applicants more than tripled in number. Applications in Spain grew by over 17 000 (+ 48 %), with continued large increases for Latin-American nationals (Venezuela, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and even Peru).  The highest relative increase occurred for Slovenia, where applications doubled from 1 475 to 2 875 (+ 95 %, mostly Pakistani and Algerian applicants). Even in Cyprus, applications increased by 69 %, from 4 600 applications to 7 765. The high number of Syrian applications in Cyprus was sustained, while the number of Iraqi, Georgian, Cameroonian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian applicants at least doubled.

Applications lodged in EU+, by receiving country and year


Figure 7: Applications more than halved in Italy, while they increased by half in Spain