Statistics Explained

Annual asylum statistics

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Data extracted on 18 March 2022 (part on asylum applications) 29 April (parts on applications by unaccompanied minors and asylum decisions).

Planned article update: mid-March 2023 (part on asylum applications and first instance asylum decisions) and mid-April 2023 (parts on applications by unaccompanied minors and final asylum decisions).


Highlights

535 000 first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the EU Member States in 2021.
Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi – main citizenships of first-time asylum applicants in the EU in 2021.
Germany, France and Spain - main countries of destination for first-time asylum applicants in the EU in 2021.
[[File:Asylum statistics YB2022 interactive v4.xlsx]]

First-time asylum applications (non-EU) in the EU Member States, 2008–2021

This article describes recent developments in relation to the number of asylum applicants 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 their 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.


Full article


Number of asylum applicants: increase in 2021

As Figure 1 shows[1], there was a gradual increase in the number of asylum applications up to 2012. After that, the number of asylum seekers rose more rapidly, to a peak of some 1.3 million in 2015.

In 2016 the number levelled off at around 1.2 million, and started falling significantly until 2018. Since then it has risen periodically, with the 2021 figure (630,600 applications) up by 33.5% compared with 2020.

Figure 1: Number of asylum applicants (non-EU citizens), EU, 2008–2021
Source: Eurostat (migr_asyappctza)

First-time applicants – 535 000 in 2021

The number of first-time asylum applicants in the EU [2] in 2021 was 535 000. A first-time applicant for international protection is a person who lodged an application for asylum for the first time in a given EU country. This excludes repeat applicants (in that country) and so more accurately reflects the number of newly arrived people applying for international protection.

This latest figure for 2021 marks an increase of 118 000 (or 28.3%) first-time applicants across the EU compared with the year before (417 100). For context, the 2021 figure is around the level observed in 2014 (530 600), before the peaks of 2015 and 2016 due to the war in Syria.

Additionally, starting from the reference year 2021, Eurostat collects statistics on subsequent applicants (people who reapplied for asylum after a decision had been taken on a previous application). According to available data (missing data for Denmark, Cyprus and Sweden), there were 86 500 subsequent asylum applicants recorded in the EU in 2021.

Citizenship of first-time applicants – mostly Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi

Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis lodged the most applications for asylum – together accounting for almost 40% of all first-time asylum applicants in EU Member States in 2021.

Syria remains the main country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU since 2013. In 2021, the number of Syrian first-time asylum applicants in the EU increased to 98 300 (from 63 600 in 2020), and their share in the total EU first-time asylum applicants increased from 15.2% to 18.4%.

Afghans remained the second main citizenship for the third year in a row (83 500, or 15.6% of the EU total), while Iraqis ranked third in 2021 (26 000, or 4.9% of the EU total).

Among the 30 most common groups of citizenship of first-time applications in 2021, the largest increases in absolute terms compared with 2020 were for Afghans (39 200 more applications, or +88.6%), followed by Syrians (34 700 more, or +54.6%) and Iraqis (9 700 more, or +59.6%).

The number of first-time asylum applicants fell the most in absolute and relative terms for Colombians (15 900 fewer applications, or -54.8%), Venezuela (12 600 fewer, or -42.7%) and Russia (1 100 fewer, or -20.0%).[3]

Figure 2: Top 30 citizenships of first-time asylum applicants (non-EU citizens), EU, 2020 and 2021
(thousands)
Source: Eurostat (migr_asyappctza)

Main destination countries – Germany, France and Spain

With 148 200 applicants registered in 2021, Germany accounted for 27.7% of all first-time asylum applicants in the EU. It was followed by France (103 800, or 19.4%), Spain (62 100, or 11.6%), Italy (43 900, or 8.2%) and Austria (36 700, or 6.9%).

Figure 3: Number of first-time asylum applicants (non-EU citizens), 2020 and 2021
(thousands)
Source: Eurostat (migr_asyappctza)

Table 1 provides an overview of the 5 largest groups of first-time asylum applicants (by citizenship) in each EU and EFTA country.

In 2021, Afghan was the main citizenship of asylum seekers in 10 EU Member States, Syrian in 6 and Iraqi in 2. For all 3 groups, the largest numbers were recorded in Germany (55.8% of all Syrian asylum seekers in the EU, 27.9% of Afghans and 60.1% of Iraqis).

Table 1: Five main citizenships of first-time asylum applicants (non-EU citizens), 2021
(number, rounded figures)
Source: Eurostat (migr_asyappctza)

Age and sex of first-time applicants

Over 80% of first-time asylum seekers in the EU in 2021 were under 35 years old (see Figure 4):

  • 50.2% were aged 18–34 years
  • 31.2% (almost one third) were minors (under 18 years).

This age distribution was common in almost all EU Member States, with the largest share of applicants aged 18–34. Only Germany, Croatia, Hungary and Sweden reported a higher proportion of applicants under 18.

Figure 4: Distribution of first-time asylum applicants (non-EU citizens) by age groups, 2021
(%)
Source: Eurostat (migr_asyappctza)

Distribution by sex

The distribution of first-time asylum applicants by sex shows that more men (69.1%) than women (30.9%) sought asylum in 2021.

The only age group where female applicants were a majority in 2021 was 65 and over – although this accounts for just 0.6% of the total number of first-time applicants.

Figure 5: Share of male first-time asylum applicants (non-EU citizens) by age groups, EU, 2021
(%)
Source: Eurostat (migr_asyappctza)

Applications by unaccompanied minors

An unaccompanied minor is a person under 18 who arrives on the territory of an EU Member State without an accompanying responsible adult, or who is left unaccompanied after arrival.

In 2021 there were 23 300 applications in the EU from unaccompanied minors. Only three Member States saw applications from unaccompanied minors at rates above 50% relative to all minors applying for asylum: Bulgaria (85.0%), Romania (63.3%) and Slovakia (56.8%).

Figure 6: Distribution of minor asylum applicants (non-EU citizens) by status, 2021
(%)
Source: Eurostat (migr_asyappctza) and (migr_asyunaa)

Decisions on asylum applications

Data on decisions on asylum applications are available for 2 stages in the process: first instance decisions (initial decisions) and final decisions taken on appeal or review.

In 2021, 523 200 first instance decisions on asylum applications were made in EU Member States and a further 197 200 final decisions following an appeal or review. Decisions made at the first instance resulted in 202 200 persons being granted protection status, while a further 65 100 received protection status in appeal or review.

The largest number of first instance decisions was issued in France (137 000, or 26.2% of the total number of first instance decisions), while the largest number of final decisions was issued by Germany (80 600, or 40.9% of the total number of final decisions) (see Figure 7).

Figure 7: Number of first instance and final decisions on asylum applications (from non-EU citizens), 2021
(thousands)
Source: Eurostat (migr_asydcfsta) and (migr_asydcfina)

First instance decisions on asylum applications

Figure 8 provides an analysis of the outcome of first instance decisions. Though refugee and subsidiary protection status are defined by EU law, humanitarian reasons are specific to national legislation and are not applicable in some of the EU Member States.

In 2021, 38.6% of EU first instance asylum decisions resulted in one of the 3 positive outcomes. For first instance decisions, some 55.4% of all these positive decisions were refugee status.

Figure 8: Distribution of first instance decisions on asylum applications (from non-EU citizens) by outcome, 2021
(%)
Source: Eurostat (migr_asydcfsta)

In absolute terms, at first instance in the EU in 2021:

  • 112 100 people were granted refugee status
  • 63 000 were given subsidiary protection status
  • 27 100 were given authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons.

Final decisions taken in appeal

The share of positive final decisions based on appeal or review (33.0%; see Figure 9) was lower in the EU in 2021 than for first instance decisions (38.6%; see Figure 8). Around 65 100 people in the EU received positive final decisions based on appeal or review in 2021, of whom:

  • 22 100 were granted refugee status
  • 18 100 were granted subsidiary protection
  • 24 900 were granted humanitarian status.
Figure 9: Distribution of final decisions on asylum applications (from non-EU citizens) by outcome, 2021
(%)
Source: Eurostat (migr_asydcfina)

Decisions on applications by unaccompanied minors

In 2021, based on available data, 6 900 first instance decisions on asylum applications by unaccompanied minors were made in EU Member States and a further 1 200 final decisions following an appeal or review.

Decisions made at the first instance resulted in 4 800 unaccompanied minors being granted protection status, while a further 320 received protection status in appeal or review. Among these together, 2 400 were given subsidiary protection (47.9% of all positive decisions), 1 700 were granted refugee status (33.8%) and 930 were given humanitarian protection (18.3%).

Figure 10: Distribution of all positive decisions (first instance and final) on asylum applications lodged by unaccompanied minors (non-EU citizens) by outcome, 2021
(%)
Source: Eurostat (migr_asyumdcfa) and (migr_asyumdcfna)

Pending applications at the end of 2021

Pending applications for international protection are applications that have been made at any time and are still under consideration by the national authorities at the end of the reference period.

In other words, they refer to the number of asylum seekers waiting for a decision at the end of the year. This statistic is also intended to measure how national authorities are coping with the workload associated with processing new applications.

At the end of 2021, 758 700 applications for international protection in EU Member States (not including Lithuania, for which no data is available) were still under consideration by national authorities. Germany had the largest share of pending applications (264 400, or 34.9% of the EU total), ahead of France (145 200, or 19.1%), Spain (104 000, or 13.7%), Italy (51 800, or 6.8%) and Greece (37 500, or 4.9%).

Figure 11: Pending asylum applications (from non-EU citizens) at the end of the year, 2020 and 2021
(thousands)
Source: Eurostat (migr_asypenctzm)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

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) No 862/2007.

Data are provided to Eurostat with a monthly frequency (for asylum application statistics, including applications by unaccompanied minors), quarterly frequency (for first instance decisions) or annual frequency (for final decisions based on appeal or review and resettlement). 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 the 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) No 862/2007, statistics on asylum decisions have become available for 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.

Context

The 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees (as amended by the 1967 New York Protocol) has, for around 70 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.

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.

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.

A number of directives in this area have been developed. The four main legal instruments on asylum 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 EU 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.

EU operational and financial support has been instrumental in helping Member States to address the migration challenge. In particular, the European Commission offers Member States continued financial support under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). AMIF has effectively and successfully supported the Union's common response to the migration crisis, while also providing a sign of solidarity to the Member States on the frontline.

In April 2016, the European Commission adopted a Communication (COM(2016) 197 final) launching the process for a reform of the CEAS. This included options for a fair and sustainable system for allocating asylum applicants among EU Member States, a further harmonisation of asylum procedures and standards to create a level playing field across the EU and thereby reduce pull factors inducing irregular secondary movements, and a strengthening of the mandate of the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA).

In May 2016, the European Commission presented a first package of reforms, including proposals for establishing a sustainable and fair Dublin system (COM(2016) 270 final), reinforcing the Eurodac system (COM(2016) 272 final) and establishing a European Agency for Asylum (COM(2016) 271 final).

In July 2016, the European Commission put forward a second set of proposals related to the reform of the CEAS, for example to establish a resettlement framework for the EU (COM(2016) 468 final) and a common procedure for international protection (COM(2016) 467 final) as well as a recast of the legislation on the standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (COM(2016) 465 final).

In March 2019, the European Commission reported on the progress made over the past 4 years and set out the measures still required to address immediate and future migration challenges (COM/2019/126 final).

In September 2020, the European Commission presented the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. This pact provides a comprehensive approach, bringing together policy in the areas of migration, asylum, integration and border management, recognising that the overall effectiveness depends on progress on all fronts. It creates faster, seamless migration processes and stronger governance of migration and borders policies, supported by modern IT systems and more effective agencies. It aims to reduce unsafe and irregular routes and promote sustainable and safe legal pathways for those in need of protection. It reflects the reality that most migrants come to the EU through legal channels, which should be better matched to EU labour market needs.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

On 4 March 2022, the Council unanimously adopted an implementing decision introducing temporary protection due to the mass inflow of persons fleeing Ukraine as a consequence of Russia's invasion.

The activated Temporary Protection Directive provides special procedures to deal with mass inflows of displaced persons for the first time. Temporary protection is an exceptional measure to provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons from non-EU countries and those unable to return to their country of origin.

It applies when there is a risk that the standard asylum system is struggling to cope with demand stemming from a mass inflow, risking a negative impact on the processing of claims.

Requirements for reporting such statistics already exist in Article 4(1)(c) and 4(3)(e) of Regulation (EC) No 862/2007. They will be implemented for the first time with the transmission of data on international protection as follows:

  • data for the first quarter of 2022 – due by 31 May 2022
  • annual data for 2022 – due by 31 March 2023.

However, in order to respond to emerging data needs, in April 2022 Eurostat proposed a voluntary collection of more frequent and timely, in terms of data provisions, statistics on temporary protection starting from reference month March 2022. The following data will be collected on a monthly basis with a deadline for provision set within one month since the end of reference period:

  • monthly data on grants of temporary protection
  • monthly data on valid temporary protection (stocks).

This data is usually compiled and transmitted to Eurostat by national ministries of the interior and/or immigration agencies.

The data on temporary protection for the first quarter of 2022 will be released by Eurostat in June 2022.

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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)
Resettled persons - annual data (tps00195)
Applications (migr_asyapp)
Asylum and first time asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex Annual aggregated data (rounded) (migr_asyappctza)
Asylum and first time asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex Monthly data (rounded) (migr_asyappctzm)
Persons subject of asylum applications pending at the end of the month by citizenship, age and sex - Monthly data (rounded) (migr_asypenctzm)
Asylum applications withdrawn by citizenship, age and sex Annual aggregated data (rounded) (migr_asywitha)
Asylum applications withdrawn by citizenship, age and sex - Monthly data (rounded) (migr_asywithm)
Asylum applicants having had their applications processed under the accelerated procedure, by age, sex and citizenship - monthly data (rounded) (migr_asyaccm)
Unaccompanied minor asylum applicants by type of applicant, citizenship, age and sex - monthly data (rounded) (migr_asyumactm)
Asylum applicants considered to be unaccompanied minors by citizenship, age and sex Annual data (rounded) (migr_asyunaa)
Unaccompanied minors subject of asylum applications pending at the end of the month by citizenship, age and sex - monthly data (rounded) (migr_asyumpctm)
Unaccompanied minors subject of asylum applications pending at the end of the month by citizenship, age and sex - monthly data (rounded) (migr_asyumpctm)
Unaccompanied minor asylum applicants having had their applications processed under the accelerated procedure, by age, sex and citizenship - monthly data (rounded) (migr_asyumaccm)
Decisions on applications and resettlement (migr_asydec)
First instance decisions on applications by citizenship, age and sex Annual aggregated data (rounded) (migr_asydcfsta)
First instance decisions on applications by citizenship, age and sex Quarterly data (rounded) (migr_asydcftq)
Decisions withdrawing status granted at first instance decision by type of status withdrawn and by citizenship Annual aggregated data (rounded) (migr_asywitfsta)
Decisions withdrawing status granted at first instance decision by type of status withdrawn and by citizenship Quarterly data (rounded) (migr_asywitfstq)
Final decisions on applications by citizenship, age and sex Annual data (rounded) (migr_asydcfina)
Decisions withdrawing status granted as final decision by type of status withdrawn Annual data (rounded) (asywitfina)
Resettled persons by age, sex and citizenship Annual data (rounded) (migr_asyresa)
First instance decisions on applications of unaccompanied minors by citizenship, age and sex - quarterly data (rounded) (migr_asyumdcfq)
Decisions withdrawing status granted at first instance decision to an unaccompanied minor by type of status withdrawn, citizenship and reason - quarterly data (rounded) (migr_asyumwifq)


Notes

  1. Some EU values presented in Figure 1 are estimated due to missing country data:
    • 2008 - 2014 data on total asylum applicants are estimated due to missing data for Croatia.
    • 2008 - 2013 data on first-time asylum applicants are estimated due to missing following country data: France and Lithuania in 2008; Spain and Slovakia in 2008 – 2009; Bulgaria, Greece, Luxembourg and Romania in 2008 – 2010; Croatia and Hungary in 2008 – 2012; Finland in 2008 – 2011; Austria in 2008 – 2013.
    • 2021 data on subsequent applicants are estimated due to missing data for Denmark, Cyprus and Sweden.
  2. The EU total is calculated as an aggregation of Member States data. Member States data refer to the number of persons applying for asylum for the first time in that Member State. Persons may however apply for international protection in more than one Member State in a given reference year. Consequently, the EU total may include such multiple applications.
  3. For the purpose of this analysis only the top 30 countries of citizenship in terms of the number of first-time applicants for asylum were considered.