Latest Asylum Trends

May 2022

Recognition rate - legend
Pending cases - legend

Source: EUAA EPS, May 2020 – May 2022

© EuroGeographics for the administrative boundaries. The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the European Union. The designation "Kosovo" is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

Asylum applications include all persons who have lodged or have been included in an application for international protection as a family member in the reporting country during the reporting month.

EU+ refers to the 27 European Union Member States, plus Norway and Switzerland.

First instance decisions include all persons covered by decisions issued on granting EU-regulated international protection status (refugee or subsidiary protection) following a first time or repeated application for international protection in the first instance determination process.

Stock of pending cases includes all cases for which an asylum application has been lodged and are under consideration by the national authority responsible for the first instance determination of the application for international protection (until the first instance decision has been issued) at the end of the reference period (i.e. last day of the reference month). It refers to the “stock” of applications for which decisions at first instance are still pending.

The EU+ recognition rate includes EU-regulated forms of protection (refugee status and subsidiary protection) and excludes 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.

 

Key Findings

  • Some 70 200 asylum applications were lodged in the EU+ in May 2022, up from April but fewer than the peak in March. Except for March, first-time applications in May were the highest since late 2016.
  • Ukrainians continued to lodge fewer asylum applications, down to about 1 600 in May, while about 530 000 persons (mainly Ukrainians) registered for temporary protection. The path to temporary protection has averted extreme pressure on asylum case processing.
  • In May, Afghans and Syrians lodged the most applications, followed by Venezuelans and Colombians who lodged a third more applications than in April. 
  • While applications from Pakistanis were up by nearly a half, Turks and Georgians applied the most on record. North Africans represented another increasingly important group.
  • Self-claimed unaccompanied minors lodged somewhat more applications compared to April but similar to March.
  • EU+ asylum authorities issued some 54 100 first instance decisions in May, the highest level in almost two years.
  • The EU+ recognition rate jumped to 45 % in May, the highest in years. Unusually, positive decisions were evenly split between refugee status and subsidiary protection. 
  • Recognition rates for Ukrainians and Syrians climbed further (to 97 % and 96 %, respectively) while falling steeply for Afghans (to 53 %). 
  • Just over half a million cases were pending at first instance at the end of May. About half of them had been waiting for a decision for less than six months.

Ukrainians almost exclusively registering for temporary protection 

In May 2022, about 70 200 asylum applications were lodged in the EU+.[1]  This was up by 17 % from April but well below the peak in March when Ukrainians had lodged some 14 000 asylum applications. From a much lower level already in April (about 1 900), asylum applications by Ukrainians declined further to about 1 600 in May (see country focus). However, this does not mean that fewer Ukrainians were in need of protection, rather persons fleeing Ukraine are eligible for temporary protection status[2]  without having to undergo an asylum procedure. In May, EU+ countries registered about 530 000 persons for temporary protection (mainly Ukrainians), more than 300 times as many as the number of Ukrainian applicants for asylum. By 24 July, almost 3.9 million persons had registered for temporary protection since the beginning of the Russian invasion on 24 February, almost exclusively Ukrainian nationals.[3]

Often, increases in the number of asylum applications lodged in the EU+ are driven by a sudden influx of a single nationality. This took place in November 2021 when many Afghans lodged asylum applications, and again in March 2022 when many Ukrainians did the same. Beneath these dramatic surges, we detect an underlying and steady increase in the number of applications being lodged by other citizenships often not covered in the media. Apart from months with sudden influxes of single nationalities, applications were actually higher in May 2022 than at any other time since late 2016 at the end of the so-called refugee crisis. In fact, first-time applications in May (about 63 400) were the highest since November 2016, except for March 2022.

More asylum applications from a broad range of countries

For all 10 main applicant nationalities, applications were significantly higher in May than in April. Afghans lodged the most applications (some 8 700, + 10 %, see country focus) followed by Syrians (8 100, + 26 % and the most in five months). Almost a third more applications were received from Venezuelans and Colombians (4 900 and 3 600, respectively, the most since the start of the pandemic with the exception of March 2022 for Colombians). Applications by Pakistanis were up by nearly a half (3 300, + 46 %), in fact the most since September 2016 (see country focus). Turks (3 300) and Georgians (2 500) lodged the most applications on record, i.e. since the beginning of the EPS data exchange in 2014. For the remainder of the 10 main applicant nationalities, there were more applications compared to April but not compared to March. This included Bangladeshis (some 2 200) and Nigerians (2 000) as well as Iraqis (1 900), ending a downward trend over five months. With 1 600 applications, Ukrainians were only the eleventh largest applicant group in May.

Like Venezuelans and Colombians, also other Latin Americans lodged substantially more applications in May than in April. Peruvians (some 1 200) and Cubans (350) applied the most on record, and a third more than in April. For Salvadorians (360), the increase exceeded 40 %. North Africans represented another increasingly important group, including Moroccans (1 400), Tunisians and Egyptians (1 200 each) as well as Algerians (700). Nationals of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1 200) and India (770) also stood out in May, applying the most on record (i.e. since January 2014). Nationals of North Macedonia (280) continued to lodge far fewer applications than in late 2021.  

More unaccompanied minors 

Almost 2 900 applicants in May were self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs), up by a fifth from April. This was the most so far in 2022 (although similar to March) but substantially lower than in the last months of 2021. The increase from April was mainly due to Afghan UAMs (some 1 300) who accounted for close to half of all UAM applicants and remained by far the largest group (see country focus), followed by Syrians (490), Somalis (230) and Pakistanis (130). Rising by three fifths from April, the number of Somali UAMs was the highest since 2015 and represented 15 % of all Somali applicants. At much lower levels, Turkish UAMs (30) applied the most on record, i.e. since the beginning of the EPS data exchange in 2014. Overall, UAMs continued to account for 4 % of all applicants, as UAMs and all applicants increased at roughly the same rate in May. 

 

Focus on selected countries of origin of applicants

  • Ukraine – In May, UNHCR counted around 1.4 million border-crossings from Ukraine to neighbouring countries. By 19 July, total exits from Ukraine since the start of the war reached 9.6 million, of which 7.3 million were entries to the neighbouring EU countries.[4] The surge of people, mostly women and children, fleeing the country after the Russian invasion resulted in more asylum applications by Ukrainians already in late February (some 2 600 for the month as a whole), five times as many as in January. In March, Ukrainian applications skyrocketed to nearly 14 000, another fivefold increase from February. In April and May, however, Ukrainians only lodged about 1 900 and 1 600 asylum applications in the EU+, respectively (more than 85 % of which were first-time applications). 

    The decline in Ukrainian asylum applications occurred immediately after the activation of the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive on 4 March, which – following implementation at national level – allowed persons fleeing Ukraine to register for temporary protection in EU+ countries. Almost 3.9 million people (overwhelmingly Ukrainians) have registered for such status across the EU+ since the beginning of the war and most of them were female.[5]

    With this “shift” from asylum applications towards registration for temporary protection, Ukrainians were no longer the largest group of asylum applicants (as they had been in March) but ranked eleventh in May, accounting for just 2 % of all applications lodged. Ukrainian unaccompanied minors continued to represent a very low share of all Ukrainian applications (< 1 %).

    In May, EU+ countries issued more first instance decisions to Ukrainians (1 300, more than tripling from March), with levels starting to match the inflow. The recognition rate for Ukrainians was 97 %, stable from April but much higher compared to 47 % in March and around 12 % in the beginning of 2022. Nevertheless, only few Ukrainians were granted refugee status because nearly all positive decisions instead granted subsidiary protection. The number of pending cases at first instance stood at around 18 000 in April but decreased to 14 700 in May.

  • Afghanistan – In May, Afghans lodged the most asylum applications in the EU+, more than 8 700 applications. This represented an increase by a tenth from April, when Afghans lodged the fewest applications since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. Since January 2022, Afghans have been lodging around 8 500 applications per month.

    As previously, around nine in every 10 Afghan applications were lodged for the first time, suggesting that they were newly arrived in the EU+ country in question. Slightly more than 1 300 or more than 15 % of all Afghan applications were lodged by self-claimed UAMs, which was the highest both in absolute and relative terms so far this year. Afghans continued to account for around half of all UAMs applying in the EU+.

    Afghan applicants received the most decisions at first instance since January 2018 (over 6 800). Although this was still below the number of applications lodged, the level of Afghan cases awaiting a decision at first instance did not increase for the first time in a year. Nevertheless, the level of pending cases remained high, at 71 500 in May. Over the last half year, cases have increasingly been pending for more than six months. These cases accounted for more than half of all cases in May (where information on the duration is available) for the first time since September 2021.

    In May, the EU+ recognition rate for Afghans decreased to 53 %, the lowest since July 2021. Since September last year, most positive decisions on Afghan cases have granted refugee status (around 88 % of all positive decisions so far this year compared to only 34 % during the same period a year earlier).

  • Pakistan – In May, Pakistanis were the fifth largest group applying for international protection in the EU+ with around 3 300 applications lodged. This was the most applications lodged by Pakistanis since September 2016 and represented a 46 % increase from the previous month. Repeated applications in the same EU+ country in May also increased (to some 430, the most since July 2018) but they continued to represent around 13 % of all applications lodged. Broadly in line with previous months, relatively few (around 4 %) of all Pakistani applicants were self-claimed unaccompanied minors.

    More or less steadily since July 2021, asylum applications have exceeded first instance decisions on Pakistani cases. In May 2022, this difference extended further, even though more first instance decisions were issued (some 2 000). In addition, nearly 370 cases were discontinued after withdrawal, and over 100 were closed in Dublin procedures, but case closures still did not match the number of applications being lodged. As a result, cases pending at first instance have been increasing in the last months, reaching 17 300 at the end of May. In May, the EU+ recognition rate for Pakistanis was 8 %, after an average of 11 % in the preceding half a year. About equally many positive decisions granted refugee status and subsidiary protection.

 

The most first instance decisions in almost two years

EU+ countries issued about 54 100 decisions at first instance in May 2022, up by a tenth from April and the most since July 2020. More decisions were issued especially on repeated applications in the same EU+ country, which increased by more than a third while decisions on first-time applications increased by a seventh. Syrians received by far the most decisions in May (12 300, + 62 %), overwhelmingly on first-time applications. They were followed by Afghans, Iraqis and Pakistanis, all of whom received significantly more decisions than in April. At a lower level, Ukrainians were issued three times as many decisions (1 300), mostly on repeated applications and the most since 2017. In contrast, substantially fewer decisions were issued to Venezuelans, Colombians and Belarusians.

Despite EU+ asylum authorities issuing more first instance decisions, applications continued to outnumber decisions in May, by more than 16 000. In fact, in the year up to May, applications exceeded decisions every month, by about 18 400 on average. However, receiving a decision is not the only way that a case can be closed; cases can also be discontinued after a withdrawal or Dublin procedure. If these other case closures are also taken into account, then applications and overall case closures were more or less equal in May. This was however not the case for Venezuelans and Colombians who lodged far more applications than the decisions they received. They were followed by Afghans, Turks and Pakistanis. On the other hand, substantially more decisions were issued to Syrians than the applications they lodged in May. 

Highest EU+ recognition rate in years

After the EU+ recognition rate had been around 40 % for half a year, it jumped to 45 % in May. This was the highest EU+ recognition rate since early 2017, apart from April 2020 (52 %). For the EU+ recognition rate, only decisions that granted refugee status and subsidiary protection are considered positive, in contrast to decisions granting humanitarian protection under national law that are not considered to be part of the Common European Asylum System. The number of applicants receiving subsidiary protection increased by almost 70 % compared to April, while essentially as many applicants received refugee status as before. As a result, positive decisions were evenly split between refugee status and subsidiary protection (12 300 each). The last time subsidiary protection accounted for half or more of all positive decisions was in 2016.

The increase of the EU+ recognition rate in May resulted because two citizenships with very high recognition rates – Syrians and Ukrainians – received substantially more decisions than in April, while two citizenships with low recognition rates – Venezuelans and Colombians – received substantially fewer. In addition, the already very high recognition rates for Ukrainians and Syrians climbed even higher, to 97 % and 96 %, respectively. Nearly all positive decisions issued to Ukrainians and most issued to Syrians granted subsidiary protection, which led to the high share of subsidiary protection overall. Recognition rates were also especially high for Belarusians (87 %), Eritreans (82 %) and Yemenis (80 %) but fell steeply for Afghans (53 %). The latter reflected declining recognition rates for both first-time and repeated Afghan applications. The recognition rate for Russians was roughly stable at 29 %.

Stable number of pending cases at first instance 

Based on the latest available data, about 857 900 cases were pending at all instances[6] in the EU+ at the end of April 2022. This was the most in 18 months, following a steady upward trend in recent months. A year earlier, in April 2021, some 792 100 cases had been awaiting a decision. Since then, pending cases at all instances have increased by  %. Cases pending at first instance – those that are still being processed by asylum authorities, not including those that are open in appeal or review (second and higher instances) – increased at a much higher rate, by 39% between April 2021 and April 2022. However, this was mainly due to an increase by 51 000 cases in March 2022.[7]

EU+ countries reported some 506 300 cases pending at first instance at the end of May 2022,[8] slightly fewer than in April (511 300) but essentially stable (- 1 %). In the previous 11 months, this number had been steadily rising. It is not clear why this trend seems to have ended: applications exceeded decisions and other case closures in May (see above), which would normally result in more pending cases at first instance. It is possible that the apparent decrease in pending cases at first instance is due to data revisions. In terms of citizenships, pending cases decreased especially for Syrians and Ukrainians. As in previous months, most pending cases in May were linked to Afghans, Syrians and Venezuelans, jointly accounting for a third of the cases pending at first instance. Cases pending for up to six months made up one half of all cases pending at first instance.