Latest Asylum Trends

March 2022

Source: EUAA EPS, March 2020 – March 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 82 900 asylum applications in March 2022, a third more than in February and the most since 2016.
  • The numbers of persons fleeing Ukraine and seeking international protection in EU+ countries peaked, including 1.6 million registrations for temporary protection as well as 14 000 asylum applications by Ukrainians until the end of March.
  • After March, the pace of registrations slowed somewhat. Still, in total, about 2.8 million displaced persons from Ukraine registered for temporary protection by 15 May.
  • Ukrainians lodged by far the most applications in March, ahead of Afghans, Syrians, Venezuelans and Colombians. 
  • Russians and nationals of various other former Soviet countries also lodged increasing numbers of applications, as well as several important African countries of origin.
  • Only 3 % of all applications were lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors.
  • Asylum authorities in EU+ countries issued some 53 300 first instance decisions in March, the most in a year but considerably fewer than applications lodged.
  • The EU+ recognition rate was 40 % in March. Recognition rates were the highest for Syrians, Yemenis, Belarusians and Eritreans.
  • Just over half a million cases were pending at first instance at the end of March. About half of them were pending for less than six months.

 

War in Ukraine causing historical levels of refugee migration in Europe

In March 2022, EU+ countries received about 82 900 asylum applications (including estimated numbers for one EU+ country temporarily unable to share data). This was the most applications since the so-called refugee crisis in 2015/2016. The increase by a third from February (+ 21 800) was also the largest month-on-month increase since 2015. Ukrainians lodged record numbers of asylum applications in March, making Ukrainians the largest applicant group. However, asylum applications alone do not nearly capture the historical dimension of refugee migration in Europe in recent months, with magnitudes not seen since 1945/1946. Under the temporary protection directive, those fleeing Ukraine are eligible for temporary protection status2 without having to undergo an asylum procedure.

Close to 2.8 million displaced persons from Ukraine have registered for temporary protection since the beginning of the war, according to provisional estimates as of 15 May.3 This number is 130 times as high as total Ukrainian asylum applications over the same period (20 300). While registrations for temporary protection have steadily declined in recent weeks, at least 77 000 persons were still registered during the second week of May, almost exclusively Ukrainians.4 The total number of displaced persons from Ukraine who entered EU+ countries at least temporarily after the start of the war approached 6.3 million on 16 May, according to UNHCR.5

Strong rises for citizens of Ukraine and other former Soviet countries, including Russia 

In March, Ukrainians lodged far more applications (some 14 000) than Afghans (9 000) and Syrians (7 700), the first time in seven years that neither Syrians nor Afghans were the largest applicant group. While applications increased significantly for all these nationalities, Ukrainians stood out by lodging more than five times as many applications as in February, and around 30 times as many as before the start of the war, almost all first-time applications (see country focus). Moderate increases for Afghans and Syrians ended a downwards trend that had prevailed for the previous three months. They were followed by Venezuelans (4 800) and Colombians (3 700). Among the remainder of the 10 largest applicant groups in March, applications increased by around a quarter for Bangladeshis (2 500) and Georgians (2 200), and by around 10 % for Turks (2 700) and Pakistanis (2 300), while Iraqis (2 100) continued to lodge fewer applications.

At lower levels, citizens of various former Soviet countries suddenly started to apply more in March. Russians lodged twice as many applications as in February (some 1 400, the highest level since 2018). Even stronger rises occurred for citizens of Belarus (about 810, + 142 %), Azerbaijan (350, + 132 %), Tajikistan (330, + 938 %), Uzbekistan (290, + 502 %) and Turkmenistan (120, + 908 %). However, it is not clear where these applicants were residing when Russia invaded Ukraine – many of them might have been residents of Ukraine. In any case, repeated applications by persons already present in EU+ countries hardly played a role for these increases, except for Russians (see country focus).

Citizens of several important countries of origin in Africa also lodged more applications, notably Nigerians (some 2 000 in March), Somalis (1 600), Egyptians (1 400, the most since at least 2014), Moroccans (1 200), Tunisians (950) and Malians (890). At lower levels, unusually many applications were lodged by citizens of Cameroon, The Gambia, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Angola, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. Overall, however, the increase in total asylum applications in the EU+ (+ 21 800 from February) was mainly driven by Ukrainians, who accounted for more than half of the total increase. All others among the 10 main nationalities (mainly from Asia and Latin America) accounted for some 20 % of the total increase, while the highlighted African and former Soviet countries of origin jointly explain another 20 %. 

Unaccompanied minors representing only 3 % of all applicants

After applications by self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs) peaked in December 2021 at close to 3 400, they receded to 2 300 in both January and February. In March, applications by UAMs increased by a fifth to some 2 800. However, this rise was outpaced by the increase in total asylum applications. As a result, only 3 % of all applicants in March were self-claimed UAMs, the lowest share in over a year. This reflected that Ukrainian applicants hardly included any unaccompanied minors (only one in 100 Ukrainian applicants). In contrast, about one in seven Afghan applicants was a self-claimed UAM. As in previous months, Afghan UAMs (some 1 300 in March) made up by far the largest group of UAMs and accounted for nearly half of all UAMs.

 

Focus on selected countries of origin of applicants

  • Ukraine – Following Russia's invasion on 24 February 2022, Ukraine is going through the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the end of World War II.6 The surge of Ukrainians fleeing the country after the invasion had already resulted in more asylum applications by Ukrainians in February (some 2 600), five times as many as in January. In March, Ukrainian applications skyrocketed to nearly 14 000, another fivefold increase from February. Thus, in March Ukrainians became the largest group applying for international protection in the EU+, accounting for 17 % of all applications lodged. Similar to February (but unlike in 2021), almost all Ukrainian applicants in March (96 %) sought asylum in the EU+ for the first time. Ukrainian unaccompanied minors continued to represent a low share of all Ukrainian applications (1 %).

    UNHCR estimated that some 4 million people were displaced from Ukraine in February and March.7 Following the activation of the temporary protection directive on 4 March, about 1.6 million persons fleeing Ukraine registered for temporary protection in the EU+ over the course of March, two thirds of whom were female.

    More recent data point towards fewer displacements, registrations for temporary protection and asylum applications after March. According to UNHCR, around 1.5 million persons fled Ukraine in April. By 16 May, the total was approaching 6.3 million, of whom 5.3 million entered EU+ countries. From the start of the war until 15 May 2022, close to 2.8 million registered for temporary protection, with fewer new registrations in recent weeks. During the same period, more than 1.8 million persons have returned to Ukraine from abroad. In the first week of May, returns to Ukraine reportedly outnumbered exits from Ukraine.8 According to preliminary data, fewer Ukrainians also applied for asylum after March.

    In terms of decision making on asylum applications in March, EU+ countries continued to issue few first instance decisions to Ukrainians (249, a new low), which led to a steep rise of Ukrainian cases pending at first instance (more than 18 000 from some 5 200 in February). Nearly half (47 %) of all Ukrainian applicants received a positive decision in March, compared to 14 % in February and 12 % in 2021. Nearly one quarter of all positive decisions granted refugee status and the remainder granted subsidiary protection.
     

  • Afghanistan – In March, Afghans lodged nearly 9 000 applications for international protection in the EU+. This was an increase of about 11 % from February, which reversed the downward trend in Afghan applications since December last year. Despite that, due to the sharp increase of Ukrainian applications, Afghans became the second largest group applying for international protection in the EU+ for the first time after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

    As before, most Afghans applied for the first time (around nine in every 10). Slightly more than 1 300 or 15 % of all Afghan applications were lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors (UAMs), which was the highest both in absolute and relative terms so far this year. Afghans continued to account for almost half of all UAMs applying in the EU+.

    Decision making at first instance for Afghan applicants reached a four-year high (almost 6 700 decisions) but still remained below the number of applications lodged. As a result, the level of Afghan cases awaiting decisions at first instance continued to be high as in late 2021, exceeding 71 000 in March, the most since September 2017. Cases were increasingly pending for more than six months, accounting for 47 % of all cases in March with available information on the duration.

    In March, the EU+ recognition rate for Afghans decreased further to 64 %, the lowest since August 2021. Still, the recognition rate so far this year (66 %) was higher than the rate during the same period in 2021 (54 %). Since September last year, most positive decisions on Afghan cases have granted refugee status (around 87 % of all positive decisions so far this year compared to only 35 % during the first three months of 2021).

  • Russia – Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on 24 February 2022, there has also been an increase in Russian asylum applicants. Already in March, Russians lodged almost 1 400 asylum applications, more than twice as many as in February and the most since August 2018. Around 17 % of those were lodged by repeated applicants, the lowest share since October 2019, indicating an inflow of many new Russian applicants in the EU+. The number of applications lodged by Russian UAMs remained negligible (only 7 in March). As before, almost half of the Russian applicants were female.9

    In March, unusually few first instance decisions were issued on Russian cases, just some 500. As the difference between the inflow (applications lodged) and outflow (decisions issued) increased in March, so did the number of pending Russian cases, which exceeded 8 200, the most since January 2021. Cases pending for less than six months accounted for over a third of all Russian pending cases, the highest share in two years (except for December 2021).

    The recognition rate for Russian applicants stood at 27 % in March, which was the highest in several years. This was driven mainly by an increase in the recognition rate for repeated applicants (24 %). Most positive decisions in March (80 %) and before granted refugee status.

 

The most first instance decisions in a year 

EU+ countries issued about 53 300 decisions at first instance in March 2022, the most since March 2021. The substantial rise from February (+ 26 %) was the first increase in five months. Decisions issued to Venezuelans (some 2 800) were five times as high as in February, and they also increased substantially for Syrians (8 700), Afghans (6 700) and Colombians (1 500), among others. In contrast, decisions on Ukrainian cases continued their steady decline, from some 900 in October 2021 to 250 in March 2022, which might reflect the need of asylum authorities to reassess the situation in Ukraine (see country focus).

Despite the overall rise, decisions did not keep up with applications lodged but remained lower by almost 30 000 in March. This was the largest gap in half a year, after substantial gaps already occurred in every month since July 2021. As a result, cases pending at first instance have increased significantly (see below). In March, Ukrainians contributed most strongly to this gap, given the large difference between Ukrainian applications and decisions on Ukrainian cases. However, for Syrians and Iraqis, decisions issued in March significantly exceeded applications lodged. 

Comparatively high EU+ recognition rate

The EU+ recognition rate was 40 % in March 2022, remaining 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. Two thirds of all positive decisions in March granted refugee status, in line with 2021. The remaining third granted subsidiary protection.

While the recognition rate for Ukrainians jumped to 47 % in March, this was based on only few decisions and did not yet reflect decisions on applications lodged after the beginning of the war (see country focus). Three quarters of the positive decisions on Ukrainian cases granted subsidiary protection, which is frequently granted in the context of large-scale conflicts. Among the nationalities receiving at least 200 decisions, recognition rates were especially high for Syrians (93 %), Yemenis (89 %), Belarusians (87 %) and Eritreans (85 %). They were especially low for citizens of Moldova (0 %), North Macedonia and India (1 % each), Serbia (2 %) as well as for Venezuelans, Bangladeshis and Armenians (3 % each), although Venezuelans are very often granted other forms of protection in the EU+.

Half a million cases pending at first instance

Based on the latest available data, about 866 100 cases were pending at all instances10 in the EU+ at the end of February 2022, continuing a slowly rising trend. Slightly fewer cases – some 840 300 – had been awaiting a decision a year earlier in February 2021. 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 44 100 between February 2021 and February 2022.

At the end of March 2022, just over half a million cases (504 700) were still pending at first instance,11 a significant increase from the end of February (+ 11 %). The steady upward trend in cases pending at first instance continued for the tenth consecutive month, resulting in the highest level since August 2017. Cases pending for up to six months made up about one half of all cases pending at first instance. Afghans and Syrians each accounted for 14 % of the cases pending at first instance, followed by Venezuelans (5 %). With some 18 000 pending cases, Ukrainians accounted for close to 4 %.

 

 

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

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

[4] EUAA, Analysis on Asylum and Temporary Protection in the EU+ in the Context of the Ukraine Crisis, Week 19 (9 – 15 May) 2022, 18 May.

[5] UNHCR, Ukraine Refugee Situation, 16 May.

[6] EU Observer, An EU response to the biggest humanitarian disaster since WWII, 8 March 2022.

[7] UNHCR, Ukraine Refugee Situation, 16 May.

[8] France24, Getting used to war, Ukraine refugees flood back to Kyiv, 12 May 2022.

[9] Eurostat, Asylum applicants by type of applicant, citizenship, age and sex - monthly data (rounded) updated 17 May 2022, accessed 17 May 2022. Data for March were available for 15 EU+ countries.

[10] Eurostat data (migr_asypenctzm) on pending cases at all instances in February 2021 were available for 27 EU+ countries. EUAA EPS data on pending cases at first instance were available for 28 EU+ countries in February 2021. For the countries with missing data, the last available value was used.

[11] Using the value from an earlier month for one EU+ country where data were unavailable for March 2022. Based only on the 28 EU+ countries reporting in March 2022, the number was 504 265.