- Data extracted on 2 March 2016 and on 20 April 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: March 2017.
This article describes recent developments in relation to numbers of asylum applicants and decisions on asylum applications in the European Union (EU). Asylum is a form of international protection given by a state on its territory. It is granted to a person who is unable to seek protection in his/her country of citizenship and/or residence, in particular for fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
Main statistical findings
Having peaked in 1992 (672 thousand applications in the EU-15) when the EU Member States received many asylum applicants from former Yugoslavia and again in 2001 (424 thousand applications in the EU-27), the number of asylum applications within the EU-27 fell to just below 200 thousand by 2006.
Focusing just on applications from citizens of non-member countries (see Figure 1), there was a gradual increase in the number of asylum applications within the EU-27 and later the EU-28 through to 2012, after which the number of asylum seekers rose to 431 thousand in 2013, 627 thousand in 2014 and close to 1.3 million in 2015. The 2015 number of asylum applications within the EU-28 was almost double the number recorded within the EU-15 in 1992.
The number of first time asylum applicants in the EU-28 in 2015 was 66 thousand (about 5 %) less than the total number of applicants. A first time applicant for international protection is a person who lodged an application for asylum for the first time in a given EU Member State and therefore excludes repeat applicants in that Member State and so it reflects more accurately reflects the number of newly arrived persons applying for international protection in the given Member State.
This latest figure for 2015 marked an increase of 693 thousand first time applicants in comparison with the year before, as the number of first time applicants more than doubled from 563 thousand in 2014 to almost 1.26 million in 2015. The main contributions to the increase were higher numbers of applicants from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and to a lesser extent from Albania, Kosovo  (UNSCR 1244/99), and Pakistan (see Figure 2).
In 2015, the number of first time asylum applicants from Syria rose to 363 thousand in the EU-28, which was 29 % of the total. Afghani citizens accounted for 14 % of the total and Iraqis for 10 %, while Kosovans and Albanians accounted for 5 % and Pakistanis for 4 %. Among the most numerous groups of citizenship of asylum applicants in the EU-28 in 2015, by far the largest relative increase comparing with 2014 was recorded for individuals from Iraq. There was also considerable growth in relative terms in the number of applicants from two other Middle Eastern countries (Syria and Iran), from Afghanistan and Pakistan in Asia, Ethiopia in Africa, as well as Albania and Kosovo in the Western Balkans, and a large increase in the number of first time applicants with unknown citizenship. The biggest relative fall in the number of applicants, among the top countries, was recorded for Mali, as the number of Malian asylum seekers fell by more than one third between 2014 and 2015 .
The number of first time asylum applicants in Germany increased from 173 thousand in 2014 to 442 thousand in 2015 (see Figure 3). Hungary, Sweden and Austria also reported very large increases (all in excess of 50 thousand more first time asylum applicants) between 2014 and 2015. In relative terms, the largest increases in the number of first time applicants were recorded in Finland (over nine times as high), Hungary (over four times) and Austria (over three times), while Belgium, Spain, Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland and Sweden all reported that their number of first time asylum applicants more than doubled. By contrast, Romania, Croatia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Latvia reported fewer first time asylum applicants in 2015 than in 2014.
Germany’s share of the EU-28 total rose from 31 % in 2014 to 35 % in 2015 while other EU Member States that recorded a notable increase in their share of the EU-28 total included Hungary (up 6.6 percentage points to 13.9 %), Austria (up 2.2 percentage points to 6.8 %), and Finland (up 1.9 percentage points to 2.6 %). Conversely, France and Italy’s shares of the EU-28 total each fell nearly 5 percentage points between 2014 and 2015, to 5.6 % and 6.6 % respectively.
Table 1 provides an overview of the five largest groups of first time asylum applicants (by citizenship) in each of the EU Member States. Syrians accounted for the largest number of applicants in 12 of the 28 EU Member States, including 159 thousand applicants in Germany (the highest number of applicants from a single country to one of the EU Member States in 2015), 64 thousand applicants in Hungary and 51 thousand in Sweden. Some 46 thousand Afghan applicants were recorded in Hungary, 41 thousand in Sweden and 31 thousand in Germany. A further 54 thousand Albanians, 33 thousand Kosovans and 30 thousand Iraqis also applied for asylum in Germany; no other EU Member State received 30 thousand or more asylum applicants in 2015 of a single citizenship.
More than four in five (83 %) of the first time asylum seekers in the EU-28 in 2015 were less than 35 years old (see Figure 4); those in the age range 18–34 years accounted for slightly more than half (53 %) of the total number of first time applicants, while nearly 3 in 10 (29 %) applicants were minors aged less than 18 years old.
This age distribution of asylum applicants was common in almost all of the EU Member States, with the largest share of applicants usually being those aged 18–34. There was one exception to this pattern: Poland reported a higher proportion of asylum applicants less than 14 years old (42 %).
An unaccompanied minor is a person less than 18 years old who arrives on the territory of an EU Member State not accompanied by an adult responsible for the minor or a minor who is left unaccompanied after having entered the territory of a Member State. According to the latest data available, in 2015 there were 88.7 thousand applications in the EU-28 from unaccompanied minors and 23.1 % of minors were unaccompanied. Among minors who applied for asylum, the share that was unaccompanied was less than half in most EU Member States in 2015, the exceptions being in Sweden, Portugal and Italy.
The distribution of first time asylum applicants by sex shows that more men than women were seeking asylum. Among the younger age groups, males accounted for 55 % of the total number of applicants in 2015. There was a greater degree of gender inequality for asylum applicants who were 14–17 or 18–34 years old, where around 80 % of applicants were male, with this share dropping back to two thirds for the age group 35–64. Across the EU-28, the gender distribution was most balanced for asylum applicants aged 65 and over, where female applicants outnumbered male applicants in 2015, although this group was relatively small, accounting for just 0.6 % of the total number of first time applicants.
Decisions on asylum applications
Data on decisions on asylum applications are available for two instance levels, namely the first instance decisions and the final decisions taken in appeal or review.
In 2015, there were 593 thousand first instance decisions in all EU Member States. By far the largest number of decisions was taken in Germany (see Figure 7), constituting more than 40 % of the total first instance decisions in the EU-28 in 2015. In addition, there were 183 thousand final decisions, with again the far largest share (51 %) in Germany.
Figures 8 and 9 provide analyses of the outcomes of first instance and final decisions. Though refugee and subsidiary protection status are defined by EU law, humanitarian reasons are specific to national legislation and not applicable in all EU Member States.
In 2015, more than half (52 %)  of EU-28 first instance asylum decisions resulted in positive outcomes, that is grants of refugee or subsidiary protection status, or an authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons (see Figure 8). For first instance decisions, some 75 % of all positive decisions in the EU-28 in 2015 resulted in grants of refugee status, while for final decisions the share was somewhat lower, at 69 %.
A total of 229 thousand persons were granted refugee status in the EU-28 in 2015 at first instance, 56 thousand subsidiary protection status, and 22 thousand authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons.
The highest share of positive first instance asylum decisions in 2015 was recorded in Bulgaria (91 %), followed by Malta, Denmark and the Netherlands. Conversely, Latvia, Hungary and Poland recorded first instance rejection rates above 80 %.
The share of positive final decisions based on appeal or review was considerably lower (14 %; see Figure 9) in the EU-28 in 2015 than for first instance decisions. Around 25.7 thousand people in the EU-28 received positive final decisions based on appeal or review, of which 16.7 thousand were granted refugee status, 4.6 thousand were granted subsidiary protection, and a further 4.4 thousand were granted humanitarian status.
High shares of positive final asylum decisions in 2015 were recorded in Italy (82 %) and Finland (67 %); Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Austria were the only other EU Member States where the share passed 50 %. The highest shares of final rejections were recorded in Estonia, Lithuania and Portugal where all final decisions were negative.
Data sources and availability
Eurostat produces statistics on a range of issues relating to international migration. Between 1986 and 2007, data on asylum was collected on the basis of a gentlemen’s agreement. Since 2008 data have been provided to Eurostat under the provisions of Article 4 of Regulation (EC) 862/2007; most of the statistics presented in this article were collected within this regulatory framework.
Data are provided to Eurostat with a monthly frequency (for asylum application statistics), quarterly frequency (for first instance decisions) or annual frequency (for final decisions based on appeal or review, resettlement and unaccompanied minors). The statistics are based on administrative sources and are supplied to Eurostat by statistical authorities, home office ministries/ministries of the interior or related immigration agencies in the EU Member States.
Two different categories of persons should be taken into account when analysing asylum statistics. The first includes asylum seekers who have lodged a claim (asylum application) and whose claim is under consideration by a relevant authority. The second is composed of persons who have been recognised, after consideration, as refugees, or have been granted another kind of international protection (subsidiary protection), or were granted protection on the basis of the national law related to international protection (authorisations to stay for humanitarian reasons), or were rejected from having any form of protection.
Since the entry into force of Regulation (EC) 862/2007, statistics on asylum decisions have been made available at different stages of the asylum procedure. First instance decisions are decisions granted by the respective authority acting as a first instance of the administrative/judicial asylum procedure in the receiving country. In contrast, final decisions in appeal or review relate to decisions granted at the final instance of administrative/judicial asylum procedure and which result from an appeal lodged by an asylum seeker rejected in the preceding stage. Since asylum procedures and the number/levels of decision making bodies differ among the EU Member States, the true final instance may be, according to the national legislation and administrative procedures, a decision of the highest national court. However, the applied methodology defines that final decisions should refer to what is effectively a final decision in the vast majority of cases: in other words, once all normal routes of appeal have been exhausted and there is no possibility to appeal on the substance of the decision but only on procedural grounds.
The 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees (as amended by the 1967 New York Protocol) has, for over 60 years, defined who is a refugee, and laid down a common approach towards refugees that has been one of the cornerstones for the development of a common asylum system within the EU.
Since 1999, the EU has worked towards creating a common European asylum regime in accordance with the Geneva Convention and other applicable international instruments. A number of directives in this area have been developed. The four main legal instruments on asylum — all recently recast — are:
- the Qualification Directive 2011/95/EU on standards for the qualification of non-EU nationals and stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection;
- the Procedures Directive 2013/32/EU on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection;
- the Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection;
- the Dublin Regulation (EU) 604/2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national (national of a non-member country) or stateless person.
The Hague programme was adopted by heads of state and government on 5 November 2004. It puts forward the idea of a common European asylum system (CEAS), in particular, it raises the challenge to establish common procedures and uniform status for those granted asylum or subsidiary protection. The European Commission’s policy plan on asylum (COM(2008) 360 final) was presented in June 2008 which included three pillars to underpin the development of the CEAS:
- bringing more harmonisation to standards of protection by further aligning the EU Member States’ asylum legislation;
- effective and well-supported practical cooperation;
- increased solidarity and sense of responsibility among EU Member States, and between the EU and non-member countries.
With this in mind, in 2009 the European Commission made a proposal to establish a European Asylum Support Office (EASO). The EASO supports EU Member States in their efforts to implement a more consistent and fair asylum policy. It also provides technical and operational support to EU Member States facing particular pressures (in other words, those EU Member States receiving large numbers of asylum applicants). The EASO became fully operational in June 2011 and has worked to increase its capacity, activity and influence, working with the European Commission and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In May 2010, the European Commission presented an action plan for unaccompanied minors (COM(2010) 213 final), who are regarded as the most exposed and vulnerable victims of migration. This plan aims to set-up a coordinated approach and commits all EU Member States to grant high standards of reception, protection and integration for unaccompanied minors. As a complement to this action plan, the European Migration Network has produced a comprehensive EU study on reception policies, as well as return and integration arrangements for unaccompanied minors.
In December 2011, the European Commission adopted a Communication on ‘Enhanced intra-EU solidarity in the field of asylum’ (COM(2011) 835 final). This provided proposals to reinforce practical, technical and financial cooperation, moving towards a better allocation of responsibilities and improved governance of the asylum system in the EU, namely through:
- introducing an evaluation and early warning mechanism to detect and address emerging problems;
- making the supporting role of the EASO more effective;
- increasing the amount of funds available and making these more flexible, taking into account significant fluctuations in the number of asylum seekers;
- developing and encouraging the relocation of beneficiaries of international protection between different EU Member States.
The migrant crisis during much of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 resulted in the European Commission announcing proposals for an emergency assistance instrument within the EU. The plan allocates some EUR 700 million of aid (over a period of three years) to help avert a humanitarian crisis and to be able to deliver more rapidly food, shelter and healthcare, as required by refugees within the EU.
- Asylum quarterly report
- Dublin statistics on countries responsible for asylum application
- Statistics on enforcement of immigration legislation
- Residence permits statistics
- Migration and migrant population statistics
- Migrant integration statistics
- Population and population change statistics
- Population statistics at regional level
Further Eurostat information
Data in focus
- Asylum applicants and first instance decisions on asylum applications: 2014
- Asylum applicants and first instance decisions on asylum applications: third quarter 2014
- Asylum applicants and first instance decisions on asylum applications: second quarter 2014
- Asylum applicants and first instance decisions on asylum applications: first quarter 2014
- Asylum applicants and first instance decisions on asylum applications: 2013
- Asylum applicants and first instance decisions on asylum applications: 2012
- EU Member States granted protection to more than 330 000 asylum seekers in 2015
- Record number of over 1.2 million first time asylum seekers registered in 2015
- More than 410 000 first time asylum seekers registered in the third quarter of 2015
- Over 210 000 first time asylum seekers in the EU in the second quarter of 2015
- 185 000 first time asylum seekers in the EU in the first quarter of 2015
- EU Member States granted protection to more than 185 000 asylum seekers in 2014
- The number of asylum applicants in the EU jumped to more than 625 000 in 2014
- More than 2.3 million first residence permits issued in the EU28 in 2013
- Large increase to almost 435 000 asylum applicants registered in the EU28 in 2013
- EU Member States granted protection to 135 700 asylum seekers in 2013
- Asylum and new asylum applicants - monthly data (tps00189)
- Persons subject of asylum applications pending at the end of the month - monthly data (tps00190)
- Asylum and new asylum applicants - annual aggregated data (tps00191)
- First instance decisions on applications by type of decision - annual aggregated data (tps00192)
- Final decisions on applications - annual data (tps00193)
- Asylum applicants considered to be unaccompanied minors - annual data (tps00194)
- Asylum and Dublin statistics (migr_asy)
- Applications (migr_asyapp)
- Decisions on applications and resettlement (migr_asydec)
- 'Dublin' statistics (migr_dub)
Methodology / Metadata
- Applications (ESMS metadata file — migr_asyapp_esms)
- Decisions on applications and resettlement (ESMS metadata file — migr_asydec_esms)
- 'Dublin' statistics (ESMS metadata file — migr_dub_esms)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- European Commission — DG Migration and Home Affairs — Common European asylum system
- European Asylum Support Office — EASO
- European Migration Network — EMN
- UNHCR — Statistics and operational data
- This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.
- For the purpose of this analysis only the top 30 countries of citizenship in terms of the number of applicants for asylum were considered
- Since reference year 2014, asylum applicants rejected on the basis that another EU Member State accepted responsibility to examine their asylum application under 'Dublin' Regulation No 604/2013 are not included in data on negative decisions. This has lowered the number of rejections. Consequently, the proportion of positive decisions in the total number of first instance decisions is estimated to have increased by around 5 percentage points.