Latest Asylum Trends

February 2022

Source: EUAA EPS, January 2020 – February 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.1

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

  • EU+ countries received some 61 000 applications for international protection in February 2022, stable from January.
  • Ukrainians lodged five times more applications than in January. Between 21 February and 24 April 2022, Ukrainians lodged about 21 700 asylum applications in total, while 2.3 million applied for temporary protection as of 24 April.
  • Afghans and Syrians lodged the most asylum applications. For both groups, the downward trend since December continued. 
  • Venezuelans and Colombians have become the third and fourth largest groups, after applying more in almost every month since June 2021.
  • Relatively few applications were lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors.
  • Asylum authorities in EU+ countries issued some 42 300 first instance decisions in February, in line with January but well below the number of applications lodged.
  • The EU+ recognition rate was 41 % in February. Recognition rates were the highest for Syrians, Belarusians, Eritreans, Palestinians and Afghans.
  • Some 453 800 cases were pending at first instance at the end of February. About half of them were pending for less than six months.

 

Ukrainians lodged 21 700 asylum applications between late February and late April

In February 2022, EU+ countries received about 61 000 applications for international protection (including estimated numbers for two EU+ countries with missing data). This level was roughly stable from January (+ 4 %) but it resulted from several substantial changes that offset each other. While applications by Afghans and Syrians continued to decline, Ukrainians lodged close to 2 600 applications, more than five times the level in January (see country focus). The steep increase was due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which started on 24 February. Almost all Ukrainian applicants (95 %) applied for the first time.

A far higher number of Ukrainian applications, almost 9 000, was recorded in the first week of March, essentially the first full week of the war.2 In total, Ukrainian nationals lodged about 21 300 applications for asylum in EU+ countries between 21 February and 24 April 2022. However, asylum applications quickly declined from early March, as the temporary protection directive was activated on 4 March and rapidly implemented by national authorities.3 Under this directive, displaced persons from Ukraine can obtain a temporary protection status with important rights and opportunities for an initial duration between one and three years without requiring standard asylum procedures.4 As of 24 April, according to provisional estimates,5 about 2.3 million persons fleeing Ukraine have been registered for temporary protection, which dwarfs asylum applications. The total number of displaced persons from Ukraine who entered EU+ countries since the start of the war is far higher again, standing at 4.6 million on April 25 according to UNHCR.6

Fewer Afghan and Syrian applicants but more Latin Americans

In terms of asylum applications in February, when the war in Ukraine had just started, Ukrainians were only the fifth largest group of applicants. Afghans and Syrians remained the largest groups, lodging some 8 100 and 6 700 applications, respectively (see country focus). For both Afghans and Syrians, the downward trend since December continued, and applications by Syrians were the lowest in nine months. At a somewhat lower level, this trend extended to Iraqis, whose 2 200 applications represented only half the number in November. 

In contrast, Venezuelans and Colombians lodged substantially more applications in February (about 4 300 and 3 200, respectively). After applying more in almost every month since June 2021, Venezuelans and Colombians have become the third and fourth largest applicant groups in the EU+ (see country focus). For both nationalities, applications in February were around six times as high as in June 2021. For Venezuelans, they were the highest since the start of the pandemic, while Colombians applied the most since August 2020. In addition, applications by Peruvians (some 900) have increased strongly since the fall of 2021, to the highest level since the start of the pandemic. Essentially all Venezuelans, Colombians and Peruvians applied for the first time. These increases, together with a continuously high level of applications by Georgians (about 1 800), drove the relatively high number of applicants from visa-exempt countries of origin: at about 15 900 applicants in February, they represented 26 % of the EU+ total, the highest share in 18 months.

Applications by Turks (some 2 500), Pakistanis (2 100) and Bangladeshis (1 900) were fluctuating in line with the preceding two to three months. Nigerians (1 600) and Russians (700) applied the most in eight and four months, respectively, while applications by Yemenis (300) were the lowest in six months. Egyptians (1 100) applied the most on record (since the beginning of the EPS data exchange in 2014) and nationals of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1 000) the most since the start of the pandemic.  

Relatively few unaccompanied minors

After several months in late 2021 with unusually many applications by self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs), only some 2 300 UAMs applied in February 2022, similar to January. The share of UAMs among all applicants in the EU+ was 4 %. The decrease of UAM applications by one third from December 2021 resulted mainly from an equivalent decrease of Afghan UAMs (1 100 in January and February each), who have almost always been the largest group of UAMs in recent years. However, there were also substantially fewer Syrian and Pakistani UAMs than in December 2021. There appeared to be only few UAMs among the applicants from Venezuela, Colombia and Ukraine. 

 

Focus on selected countries of origin of applicants

  • Ukraine – Between the peak of just under 21 000 asylum applications in 2015 (following the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014) and the beginning of the war on 24 February 2022, Ukrainians had lodged steadily fewer applications, down to 6 400 in 2021 (only 1 % of the EU+ total). The situation changed dramatically following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    Since the beginning of the war to 25 April 2022, some 5.3 million people have been displaced from Ukraine, of whom some 4.6 million have entered the EU, according to arrivals documented by UNHCR.6 At an early stage of this unprecedented development, the EU Council activated the temporary protection directive for the first time, in order to give protection to those fleeing the war in Ukraine without requiring standard asylum procedures. As a result, about 2.3 million persons fleeing Ukraine have already been registered for temporary protection in the EU+ (these are provisional estimates up to 24 April).At the same time, according to the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service, about 1.2 million Ukrainians have returned from abroad since 24 February.8

    The activation of the temporary protection directive, which allows to give protection without the need to lodge an asylum application (although this remains an option), explains why just a small fraction (less than 1 %) of the Ukrainians who entered the EU since the beginning of the war have applied for asylum: between 21 February and 24 April 2022 Ukrainians have lodged about 21 700 applications for asylum in EU+ countries. Almost 9 000 applications were lodged in the first week of March, just after the beginning of the war. 

    However, when focusing on Ukrainian asylum applications in February alone, the numbers reflect just the very first signs of what has since turned into the largest humanitarian crisis Europe has seen in decades. After lodging on average 450 applications per month in the six months prior to the war, in February 2022 Ukrainian applications for international protection rose more than fivefold and reached 2 600. Until then, this was the most applications Ukrainians had lodged in one month since the beginning of EPS data exchange (in 2014) and made Ukraine the fifth largest country of origin of all asylum seekers in the EU+. Almost all Ukrainian applicants (95 %) sought asylum in the EU+ for the first time. This was a significant change from 2021, when repeated applications accounted for 16 % of all Ukrainian applications. The share of unaccompanied minors among Ukrainian asylum seekers was very small in February 2022 (1 %).

    About 330 first instance decisions were issued on Ukrainian asylum applications in February, which was the least in almost two years. Nevertheless, this is bound to change in the months after February. Furthermore, some 130 applications were withdrawn, which was the most in more than two years. Given the large difference between the inflow and the outflow of Ukrainian applications in February, the stock of pending cases at first instance grew considerably, by some 1 500 from January and came to exceed 5 000.  

    The EU+ recognition rate for Ukrainians was 14 % in February, which was slightly higher than the recognition rate for Ukrainians in 2021 (12 %) but still considerably lower than for other main countries of origin. Importantly, likely all first instance decisions in February were issued on Ukrainian cases lodged before the beginning of the war. One third of the positive decisions granted refugee status and two thirds subsidiary protection.

  • Afghanistan – In February, Afghans remained the largest group applying for international protection in the EU+, despite the third consecutive decline in applications. Around 8 100 Afghan nationals lodged asylum applications in the EU+ in February, down by 5 % from the previous month and the least since July 2021. Still, this was considerably more than in most of the four years prior to the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan.

    As in the previous two months, roughly nine in 10 Afghan applications were lodged by first-time applicants. The number of self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs) from Afghanistan remained stable, around 1 100 (or 14 % of all Afghan asylum seekers). Afghans continued to account for almost half of all UAMs applying in the EU+. 

    With some 4 900 first instance decisions issued in February, Afghans were second only to Syrians (around 7 100 first instance decisions). This was only marginally less than in January. But given that the inflow continued to exceed the outflow, the stock of pending Afghan cases at first instance rose by 1 000 – the ninth consecutive increase – and reached some 70 700, the most in four and half years. More than a half of these were recent cases, pending for less than six months. 

    The EU+ recognition rate for Afghans was 68 % in February, remaining close to the recognition rate in 2021 (66 %). Nevertheless, this was significantly below the high levels back in October and November 2021 (above 90 %). Over four fifths of the positive decisions in February granted refugee status and the remainder subsidiary protection.

  • Colombia – In February, Colombians lodged some 3 200 applications, up by 30 % from the previous month and the most in a year and a half. This made Colombians the fourth largest group applying for international protection in the EU+ in February as well as the second largest group (after Venezuelans) among the nationals of visa-exempt countries. Nearly all Colombians were first-time applicants, in line with the last six months. Very few Colombian applicants (1 %) were UAMs.

    In February, about 1 000 first instance decisions were issued to Colombians, which was a drop by two thirds from January and a decline for the second consecutive month. In the last four months, at least 100 Colombian applications were withdrawn each month – a tiny proportion of all Colombian applications lodged. The figure becomes even less noteworthy when compared to much higher withdrawal levels of other main countries of origin. Nonetheless, this was unusually high for Colombians. Contrary to other main citizenship groups, the majority of these withdrawals were explicit. Still, the inflow of applications exceeded the outflow and, as a result, the stock of pending Colombian cases at first instance grew to some 14 000, the most in almost a year. Over a half of these cases had been pending for more than six months.

    The recognition rate for Colombians was 7 % in February, in line with generally low prior recognition rates, fluctuating between 7 % and 14 % in the last five years (with an exceptionally low 2 % in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected asylum applications and decisions across the EU+).

 

Persistent gap between applications and decisions at first instance 

EU+ countries issued about 42 300 decisions at first instance in February 2022. This was broadly in line with the level in January (43 100), as missing February data for two EU+ countries can partly account for the difference. As in previous months, Syrians still received the most decisions in February (some 7 100). They were followed by Afghans (4 900), Iraqis (2 400) and Turks (2 100). Compared to January, substantially fewer decisions were issued to Colombians (- 40 %) and Venezuelans (- 69 %). After declining for several months, only 330 decisions were issued to Ukrainians in February (see country focus). 

Total decisions at first instance have been fluctuating in the range of 40 000 to 48 000 for six months. However, applications have substantially exceeded decisions in every month since July 2021. In February 2022, applications exceeded decisions by close to 19 000. This gap was somewhat larger than in the previous two months but remained lower than the gaps recorded between August and November 2021. As a result, cases pending at first instance have increased in recent months (see below).

Comparatively high EU+ recognition rate

The EU+ recognition rate was 41 % in February 2022, the highest in five months and significantly higher than the overall recognition rate for 2021 (35 %). 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. Some 68 % of all positive decisions in February granted refugee status, compared to 65 % in all of 2021. The remainder (32 %) granted subsidiary protection. The comparatively high EU+ recognition rate appeared to result from more decisions being issued to some nationalities with relatively high recognition rates, notably Syrians (91 %) but also Somalis (54 %), Iranians (50 %) and Turks (45 %).

In addition to Syrians, also Afghans (68 %), Eritreans (81 %), Palestinians (72 %) and Belarusians (88 %) had especially high recognition rates in February, among the nationalities receiving at least 200 decisions. For Afghans, the recognition rate has been roughly stable since December 2021 but had been far higher in the preceding three months (between 86 % and 91 %), in the immediate aftermath of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. For Ukrainians, the recognition rate was 14 % in February, which did not yet reflect the impact of the Russian invasion. Recognition rates were especially low for citizens of Moldova (0 %), India and Bosnia and Herzegovina (1 % each), North Macedonia (2 %) as well as for nationals of Bangladesh, Georgia and Algeria (3 % each).

Increasingly more cases pending at first instance

Based on the latest available data, about 847 500 cases were pending at all instances9 in the EU+ at the end of December 2021, roughly stable from November. Only slightly more – some 856 500 cases – had been awaiting a decision a year earlier in December 2020. Since then, EU+ countries had initially reduced the caseload, but these gains were undone after July 2021. 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 by about 29 900 between December 2020 and December 2021, while total pending cases remained roughly stable. 

At the end of February 2022, some 453 800 cases were still pending at first instance,10 marginally more than at the end of January. Therefore, the steady upward trend in cases pending at first instance continued for the ninth consecutive month, resulting in the highest level since May 2020. Cases pending for up to six months made up about one half of all cases pending at first instance. Afghans and Syrians accounted for 16 % and 15 % of the cases pending at first instance, respectively, followed by Iraqis (5 %).

 

 

Notes

[1] 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.

[2] All figures cited in this paragraph are based on EUAA, Analysis on Asylum and Temporary Protection in the EU+ in the Context of the Ukraine Crisis, Week 16 (18 – 24 April) 2022, 27 April.

[3] EUAA, EU+ countries continue to address the protection needs of displaced persons from Ukraine, 21 April 2022.

[4] European Commission, Migration and Home Affairs, Temporary protection, 21 April 2022.

[5] Based on data on registrations for temporary protection shared with the EUAA and the European Commission.

[6] UNHCR, Ukraine Refugee Situation, 25 April.

[7]  Based on data on registrations for temporary protection shared with the EUAA and the European Commission.

[8] As published by UNHCR, Ukraine Refugee Situation, 25 April.

[9] Eurostat data (migr_asypenctzm) on pending cases at all instances in December 2021 were available for 28 EU+ countries. EUAA EPS data on pending cases at first instance were available for 28 EU+ countries in December 2021. For the country with missing data, the last available value was used.

[10] Using the value from an earlier month for two EU+ countries where data were unavailable for February 2022. Based only on the 27 EU+ countries reporting in February 2022, the number was 449 976.