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International protection in the EU+: 2018 overview

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Source: EUROSTAT, from 2009 to 2018.  
Based on Eurostat migr_asyappctza,migr_asypenctzmmigr_asydcfsta and migr_asydcfina as of 13 May 2019
The figures presented in this visualisation are provisional and may be subject to update or revision from the Member States. Data available on the Eurostat website are rounded to the nearest five. As such, aggregates calculated on the basis of rounded figures may slightly deviate from the actual total. The recognition rate ("RR") is calculated as the share of decisions granting refugee status, subsidiary protection or, where applicable, an authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons. Please be advised that a ‘0’ may not necessarily indicate a real zero value but could also represent a value of ‘1’ or ‘2’. It is important to note that Eurostat Technical Guidelines have been regularly amended. For more information on these changes which affect data comparability over time please refer to the following reference metadata migr_asyapp_esms and migr_asydec_esms.



Applications for international protection in the EU+

In 2018, there were 664 480 applications for international protection in EU+ countries,1 which amounts to a single application for every 792 inhabitants. Thus, the number of applications decreased for the third successive year, but in this case only by 10 %. A year ago, between 2016 and 2017, the decrease was much more significant at 43 %. In the EU+ as a whole, monthly applications remained stable throughout the year. The monthly number of applications ranged, approximately, between 59 000 and 64 000. A seasonal trend, with higher numbers of applications over the summer, was less visible than in the previous three years.

Most applications for asylum were lodged in Germany, France, Greece, Italy and Spain. Together, these five countries accounted for almost three quarters of all applications lodged in the EU+. Germany received the most applications (184 180) for the seventh consecutive year, despite a 17 % decrease compared to 2017. In contrast, 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.  With regard to Italy, which received the second highest number of applications in 2017, applications fell considerably, likely as a result of the decline in irregular migration along the Central Mediterranean route. A significant change occurred in Italy, where applications decreased by 53 %. Spain remained at the fifth position, but with applications increasing from 36 605 in 2017 to 54 050 in 2018. This highlights an important mixed trend: the overall 10 % decrease in applications between 2017 and 2018 in EU+ was reflected in just over half of all EU+ countries, while in the other half, applications increased, in some countries substantially so. 

Citizens of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria lodged the most applications. Jointly, these applicants accounted for one in three applications lodged in the EU+, although all lodged fewer applications than in 2017 (see box below for more information).

Only five out of the 20 most common citizenships of asylum applicants in 2018 applied in increasing numbers compared to the previous year: Iranian, Turkish, Venezuelan, Georgian and Colombian nationals. The increases for these five citizenships were all considerable, ranging between + 36 % and + 122 %. Algerian and Ukrainian applicants have been lodging stable numbers of applications over the last two years. The highest relative increase was for Colombian applicants, who lodged more than twice as many applications in 2018 as in 2017.  In absolute numbers, Colombians lodged just over 10 000 applications, making them the 17th main citizenship of origin in 2018. The vast majority of Colombian applicants lodged their claim in Spain (84 %). The number of Georgian applicants went up by 67 %, or from 12 000 to 20 000 applications, entering the top 10 citizenships of origin.  They applied more in France (35 % of all Georgian applications in the EU+) than before, and slightly less, but still in large numbers, in Germany.  Turkish nationals lodged almost 25 000 applications in 2018.  This was the third consecutive year of rising numbers of Turkish applications. Two fifths of Turkish applicants lodged their claim in Germany, and one fifth in Greece, the latter receiving a larger share than in 2017. Venezuelan applications increased to the same extent as Turkish nationals, reaching 22 530 applications and becoming a top eight citizenship. As was the case for Colombians, the majority of Venezuelans lodged their applications in Spain (86 %). For all these citizenships, applications for international protection in the EU+ in 2018 reached levels unseen since the start of EU-harmonised data exchange began in 2008. Venezuelan, Colombian, and Georgian nationals are all exempt from a visa requirement when crossing the EU external borders.2 In 2018 nationals of visa-free countries accounted for almost one in five applications lodged in the EU+.

In 2018, some 20 325 UAMs applied for international protection in the EU+, some 37 % fewer than in 2017;3 the share of UAMs relative to all applicants was 3 %, similar to 2017. About half of all UAM applicants were from five countries of origin: Afghanistan (16 % of all UAM applicants in the EU+), Eritrea (10 %) Syria, Pakistan (7 % each) and Guinea (6 %). Compared to a year earlier, the number of UAMs dropped among all citizenships, except for nationals of Tunisia (among whom they almost tripled), Congo DR (+ 50 %), Iran (+ 25 %), Vietnam (+ 19 %) and Sudan (+ 18 %). In contrast, UAM applications almost halved for Bangladeshis and nationals of several Western African countries, including Gambia, Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria.




Focus on the five main countries of origin of applicants

  • Syria - Seven years after the beginning of the conflict, in 2018 Syrians were still lodging the most applications for international protection in the EU+ for the sixth consecutive year. With 85 575 applications, Syrian applicants continued to stand out significantly, lodging almost twice as many applications as any other nationality in 2018 and this, despite a decrease by 21 % compared to the previous year.  On a monthly basis, Syrian applications averaged 7 100, with the highest levels recorded in January (8 165) and July (8375) and the lowest in December (4 830). The vast majority of Syrian nationals lodged applications in just two EU+ countries: Germany (54 %) and Greece (16 %). Syrian applicants were also receiving most decisions at first instance overall, some 75 030.

    The recognition rate for decisions issued at first instance to Syrian applicants was 88 %, six percentage points lower than in 2017. However, the recognition rate for decisions issued at higher instances was higher, and stood at 94 %.

    At the end of the year, some 92 620 applicants were still awaiting a final decision, ranking second in the list of the citizenships with most pending cases. Thus, the stock of open cases remained considerable, accounting for one in ten applications pending in the EU+.

  • Afghanistan – Afghans lodged the second highest number of applications for international protection after Syria, with 47 155 applications lodged in the EU+ in 2018.  This was just slightly lower than in the previous year (- 4 %). Afghanistan represented 7 % of the total, similar to 2017.  Afghanistan was the main country of origin between 2009 and 2012, and later remained constantly among the top three.  In 2018, Afghans lodged more applications in the second half of the year than in the first half; in February, March and April, the monthly totals only just exceeded 3 000, whereas in the second half of the year the highest monthly total was 5 010 in October. Applicants from Afghanistan were almost equally split between three countries: Germany (26 %), Greece (25 %) and France (22 %). Afghan applicants received some 62 535 decisions at first instance, much fewer than in 2017, when decision-making was more focused on this citizenship.

    The first-instance recognition rate for Afghan applicants was 50 %, about three percentage points higher than a year earlier. Also in the case of Afghans, the share of positive decisions was higher at higher instances, and stood at 56 %.

    At the end of 2018, Afghans were the citizenship with most pending cases, as was the case in the previous two years: some 122 710, accounting for about 14 % of all pending cases. However, Afghan applicants also experienced the largest reduction in the stock of pending cases from 2017 (- 24 %).

  • Iraq – As was the case in 2015 and 2016, in 2018 Iraq was the third main country of origin of applicants in the EU+ in 2018.  With 45 565 applications, Iraq, just like Afghanistan, represented 7 % of the EU+ total.  Compared to the previous year, the number of Iraqi applications decreased by 14 %. Applications peaked in January, August and October, with more than 4 000 each. Over two-thirds of Iraqi applications were lodged in just three EU+ countries: Germany (39 %), Greece (21 %) and the United Kingdom (8 %). Iraqis received 43 220 decisions at first instance, whereas they received twice as many a year earlier.

    The share of positive decisions at first instance was 43 %, granting prevalently refugee status. Among the top 10 citizenships with most first-instance decisions issued, Iraqis were one of the few with a lower recognition rate in appeal or review, 34 %.

    At the end of the year, some 75 365 Iraqi applicants were still awaiting a final decision in the EU+, about 12 % fewer than in 2017.

  • Pakistan – Nationals from Pakistan lodged 29 260 applications in 2018. Despite a slight 9 % decrease compared to 2017, it became the fourth main country of origin of applicants. Each year since the beginning of EU data collection in 2008, Pakistani applicants have been among the 10 main citizenships of origin. The monthly number of Pakistani applicants was slightly lower in the first six months of the year, especially in February and April with about 2 000 applications each. In July, October and November there was a rise towards almost 3 000 applications. More than three quarters of Pakistani applications were lodged in just four EU+ countries: Italy (29 %), Greece (26 %), Germany (12 %) and France (10 %).

    The recognition rate for Pakistani applicants was 14 %, and much higher for decisions in appeal or review (25 %).

    At the end of 2018, approximately 44 435 Pakistani nationals were awaiting a final decision in the EU+, down by 6% from 2017.

  • Nigeria – Nigeria completed the top five with 26 455 applications in 2018. Nigerian applications decreased by 39 % compared to the previous year, likely following the decrease of arrivals via the Central Mediterranean route – the main entry route of Nigerian applicants who used to lodge their claims mostly in Italy. Nigerian applications continued to decrease gradually throughout the year: the highest monthly number was 2 985 applications in January 2018, and the lowest was 1 560 applications in December 2018. A weaker relationship with irregular migration on the Central Mediterranean Route is evident when looking at the shift in the EU+ countries receiving most Nigerian applications. In 2018, in fact, Germany (receiving some 42 % of applications) replaced Italy (26 %) as the main destination country for Nigerian applicants, who also applied in large numbers also in France (13 %).

    The recognition rate for first-instance decisions issued to Nigerian applicants was 21 %, granting largely humanitarian protection. As was the case for several other citizenships with most decisions issued, this recognition rate was lower than that at second instance (27 %).

    The stock of cases pending for Nigerian nationals amounted to 47 835 at the end of 2018, decreasing by a large 20 % from 2017.


Asylum decisions: first and higher instances

In 2018, EU+ countries issued 601 525 decisions in first instance, a significant 39 % decrease compared to 2017.4  Thus – in contrast to 2017 – there were more applications lodged than decisions issued, with obvious implications for the number of cases pending at first instance. The number of first-instance decisions issued each quarter decreased throughout the year: the overall EU+ output was indeed larger in the first three months of 2018, and gradually declined in the second and third quarters of the year. A minor increase was noticed, nonetheless, in the last three months of the year.

Most first-instance decisions were issued to nationals of the three main countries of origin in terms of applications lodged. Syrians returned to be the citizenship receiving the most decisions (75 030), after decision-making in EU+ countries in 2017 was heavily focused on Afghan applicants. The latter received 62 535 decisions in 2018, followed by Iraqi nationals (43 220). Jointly, these three citizenships received slightly fewer than a third of all first-instance decisions issued in the EU+. Most citizenships received fewer decisions than in 2017. For instance, in 2018 Syrian applicants received half as many decisions compared to 2017; the decline was even more evident for Afghans (- 65 %) and Iraqis (- 57 %). On the other hand, a limited number of citizenships received more decisions in 2018. This was the case, for instance, for Salvadorians (+124 %), Colombians (+111 %), Moldovans (+ 70 %), Georgians (+ 57 %), Chadians (+47 %), and Ivoirians (+ 34 %).5 With regard to the volume of first-instance decisions issued in each country, most decisions were issued in Germany (30 % of all decisions), France (19 %) and Italy (16 %). Jointly, these three countries issued about two thirds of all decisions issued in the EU+. These three countries processed the most first-instance decisions also in 2017, but the overall output was distributed differently. In fact, a year earlier Germany alone issued more than half of all decisions in the EU+. In 2018, the output of German first-instance authorities was reduced almost threefold. In contrast, France (+ 4 %) and in particular Italy (+ 22 %) issued more decisions. Therefore, the output was more evenly distributed across the EU+ in 2018. Other countries issuing fewer decisions compared to 2017, but still accounting for a considerable proportion of first-instance decisions in 2018 were Austria (- 24 %), Belgium (- 21 %), Sweden (- 49 %) and the Netherlands (- 35 %). Conversely, the volume of first-instance decisions expanded in Greece (+ 32 %) and, on a smaller scale, Ireland (+ 33 %) and Malta (+ 35 %).

In 2018, EU+ countries issued 314 915 decisions at second or higher instance, a 9 % increase compared to 2017. Thus, a trend of progressively more final decisions issued each year, which has been observed as of 2014, persisted. A higher volume of final decisions was issued to applicants from most countries of origin. A third of all final decisions were issued to applicants from Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq. Afghan nationals received more final decisions than in 2017 (+ 40 %) outnumbering Syrians (- 9 %), who in contrast received somewhat fewer.  A key development in 2018 was the sharp increase in the number of final decisions issued to applicants from several Western African countries, such as Gambia, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria (for whom final decisions more than doubled), and Senegal (receiving almost twice as many final decisions). This development is linked to the rise in the output of higher instance bodies in Italy, the country that issued most decisions to these citizenships in 2018.

Conversely, the largest decreases in the number of final decisions concerned applicants from Western Balkan countries, including Kosovo (- 50 %), North Macedonia (- 49 %), Serbia (- 47 %) and Albania (- 31 %). In this case, the vast decline in the number of decisions was attributable to much fewer decisions issued by second instance authorities in Germany, whereas in the other EU+ countries all these citizenships received more or less an equal number - or more - final decisions than in 2017.


Recognition rates at first and higher instances

The EU+ recognition rate in first instance in 2018 was 39 %, decreasing by 7 percentage points from the previous year. The decrease in the EU+ recognition rate compared to 2017 was mainly due to the fact that recognition rates dropped for several citizenships of origin, and particularly for those with many decisions issued. The highest EU+ first instance recognition rates were for applicants from Yemen (89 %), Syria (88 %) and Eritrea (85 %).6 The lowest share of positive decisions was for applicants from Moldova (1 %), North Macedonia (2 %) and Georgia (5 %). Despite such low recognition rates, Moldova and Georgia were among the few countries of origin whose nationals lodged more applications compared to 2017. Lower recognition rates were evident for applicants from Somalia (54 % in 2018, or - 16 percentage points from 2017), Iran (40 %, - 15 p.p.), Iraq (43 %, - 14 p.p.), Eritrea (85 %, - 7 p.p.) and Syria (88 %, - 6 p.p.).7 In contrast, upward variations took place for nationals of Venezuela (29 %, + 15 percentage points), China (42 %, + 13 p.p.), El Salvador (67 %, + 13 p.p.) and Turkey (48 %, + 12 p.p.).

In 2018, the recognition rate for decisions issued at final instance was 37 %, up from 33 % in 2017, and just two percentage points lower than that at first instance. The fact that a considerable proportion of final decisions were positive was reflected in the recognition rates for applicants from several countries of origin, at both higher and lower recognition rates. In 2018, seven out of the ten citizenships with most final decisions received a higher proportion of positive decisions at final rather than in first instance, a noticeable development. The largest discrepancies concerned applicants from Pakistan (25 %, + 11 percentage points), Bangladesh (28 %, + 9 p.p.), Syria (94 %, + 6 p.p.), Afghanistan (56 %, + 6 p.p.) and Nigeria (27 %, + 6 p.p.). For all these citizenships, with the exception of Syrians, most positive final decisions granted humanitarian protection.


Pending cases awaiting a final decision

While an application is under consideration with the responsible authority, it is part of the stock of pending cases, which represent an important measure of the workload that national asylum authorities face as well as of the pressure on the national asylum systems. At the end of 2018, approximately 896 560 applications were awaiting a final decision in the EU+, which represented a 6 % decrease compared to 2017.

The top five nationalities awaiting a final decision remained the same as in 2017, namely Afghans, Syrians, Iraqis, Nigerians and Pakistanis. While for each of these nationalities that stock decreased, they still constituted more than two-fifths of the total open cases in EU+. At the end of 2018, Germany continued to be the country with the largest stock of pending cases at all instances, despite a minor reduction compared to a year earlier. Italy remained the second EU+ country with the highest number of pending cases, but the stock decreased by almost a third compared to the end of 2017. Spain had the largest absolute increase in pending cases, doubling to almost 79 000 at the end of 2018. A considerable absolute increase also took place in Greece, where the stock went above 76 000. France also reported more pending cases than a year ago, up to almost 53 000. At the same time, in approximately half of the EU+ countries, the stock of pending cases decreased. In six countries, the decrease was by more than a thousand cases; furthermore, in four of them (Germany, Italy, Austria and Sweden), the decrease was by more than 10 000 cases.



Asylum applicants: all persons having submitted an application for international protection or having been included in such application as a family member during the reference period. 'Application for international protection' means an application for international protection as defined in Art.2(h) of Directive 2011/95/EU, i.e. a request made by a third-country national or a stateless person for protection from a Member State, who can be understood to seek refugee status or subsidiary protection status, and who does not explicitly request another kind of protection, outside the scope of this Directive, that can be applied for separately.

First-instance decisions: decisions (positive and negative) considering applications for international protection as well as the grants of authorisations to stay for humanitarian reasons, including decisions under priority and accelerated procedures taken by administrative or judicial bodies in Member States.

Stock of pending cases: all applications for international protection under consideration by the responsible national authority at the end of the reference period. It includes the number of persons with pending applications at all instances of the administrative and/or judicial procedure.

The EU+ recognition rate includes EU-regulated forms of protection (refugee status and subsidiary protection) as well as national protection forms (humanitarian reasons). It is calculated by dividing the number of positive first-instance decisions (granting refugee status or subsidiary protection) by the total number of decisions issued.



[1]  If not stated otherwise, EU+ will be understood as EU28 plus Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland.
[2] Regulation (EU) 2018/1806.
[3] For statistical purposes, the unaccompanied minor applicants are those whose age has been accepted by the national authority, and, if carried out, confirmed by an age-assessment procedure. The Eurostat Guide for practitioners highlights that ‘the age of unaccompanied minors reported shall refer to the age accepted by the national authority. In case, the responsible national authority carries out an age assessment procedure in relation to the applicant claiming to be an unaccompanied minor, the age reported shall be the age determined by the age assessment procedure’.
[4] Regulation (EC) 862/2007 on Community statistics on migration and international protection and repealing Council Regulation No 311/76 on the compilation of statistics on foreign workers specifies that the following possible outcomes of international protection procedures (defined by reference to the Qualification Directive) should be notified by Member States: granting of refugee status (under Geneva Convention); granting of subsidiary protection status; granting of an authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons under national law concerning international protection (humanitarian protection); temporary protection status (under EU legislation); rejection of the application.
[5] For citizenships with at least 1 000 decisions issued in the EU+ in 2018.
[6] For citizenships with at least 1 000 decisions issued in the EU+ in 2018.
[7] For citizenships with at least 1 000 decisions issued in the EU+ in 2018.