BRUSSELS — In a new report released on Sept. 4, the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) unveiled that the European Union and associated nations, including Switzerland and Norway, witnessed a nearly 30% spike in asylum applications in the first half of 2023. The total number of applications registered reached 519,000, reflecting a significant 28% rise compared to the same period in 2022.
This trend follows a considerable 53% year-on-year surge observed in 2022. If the current trajectory persists, EUAA predicts the numbers might cross the 1 million mark by the year's end. Notably, these figures exclude around 4 million Ukrainians who sought refuge due to the Russian invasion and are presently under temporary protection.
The surge has inevitably burdened many EU+ nations. "The escalation has placed tremendous strain on EU+ nations, both in processing applications and safeguarding those in genuine need," stated the agency. Consequently, pending asylum cases have also risen by 34% from last year. By June, the EUAA stepped in to provide operational aid to 13 member states grappling with the influx.
Syrians continued to lead in asylum applications, accounting for 67,000 requests between January and June 2023 — a staggering 50% hike compared to the first half of 2022. Germany remains the primary recipient of these applications, processing about 62% in the mentioned period.
Other significant contributors to the application tally were Afghans, Venezuelans, Turks, and Colombians, jointly making up 44% of all applications. Venezuelans and Colombians, in particular, registered a remarkable increase in their numbers, with application rises of 41% and 73% respectively, compared to the first half of 2022.
Russians and Iranians have also seen a surge in granted protections. For Russians, the approval rates jumped from 20% in 2021 to 35% currently. Iranians witnessed an increment from 31% in 2020 to 47% at present.
Increasing political tensions in the Ivory Coast resulted in about 9,300 asylum applications, while Guinea, a West African nation, accounted for approximately 8,700 applications.
EU nations are grappling with the sustained inflow of asylum seekers and migrants. Belgium recently decided to limit shelter provisions only to families, women, and children, drawing criticism from human rights bodies. The Netherlands faced political upheaval with Prime Minister Mark Rutte resigning over migration policy disagreements in July.
Outside the EU, the UK's asylum-related expenses have surged. With the asylum budget escalating from £2.12 billion ($2.66 billion) in 2021/22 to £3.97 billion ($4.98 billion) in 2022/23, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak labeled the trend "unacceptable."
The EU, in June, adopted a common asylum reform package. The policy proposes a hefty 20,000 euro ($21,493) fine on countries declining to accept refugees. Notably, Hungary and Poland rejected the agreement, while Bulgaria, Lithuania, Malta, and Slovakia abstained from voting.