Back First-time asylum applicants up by a quarter in 2021


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In 2021, 535 000 first-time asylum applicants (non-EU citizens) applied for international protection in the EU Member States, up by 28% compared with 2020 (417 100). The numbers are around the level recorded in 2014 (530 600), before the peaks of 2015 and 2016 due to war in Syria.

This information comes from data on asylum applicants published by Eurostat today. The article presents a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article


Line graph: First-time asylum applicants (non-EU citizens) in the EU Member States, 2008-2021

Source dataset: migr_asyappctza


Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi – main citizenships of first-time asylum applicants

More than half (54%) of the first-time asylum applicants in 2021 had Asian citizenship, while 25% had African citizenship, 10% European citizenship (non-EU) and 9% American citizenship. 

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

Syria remains the main country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU since 2013. In 2021, Syrians lodged 98 320 first-time applications (18% of the total number of first-time applications in the EU). 

Afghans remained the second main citizenship for the third year in a row (83 520, or 16% of the EU total), while Iraqis ranked third in 2021 (25 965, or 5% of the EU total). 

In 2021, Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis accounted for the largest number of first-time asylum applications in Germany (56% of all Syrian first-time asylum seekers in the EU, 28% of Afghans and 60% of Iraqis).


Map: First-time asylum applicants (non-EU citizens), in the EU in 2021, the top 5 citizenships for Asia, Africa, America and Europe, as well as stateless and unknown persons

Source dataset: migr_asyappctza

More than 1 in 4 applied for asylum in Germany

With 148 175 first-time asylum applicants registered in 2021, Germany accounted for over one quarter of all first-time applicants in the EU (28%). It was followed by France (103 790, or 19%) and Spain (62 050, or 12%), ahead of Italy (43 900, or 8%) and Austria (36 725, or 7%). These five Member States together accounted for almost three quarters of all first-time asylum applicants in the EU.


Highest number of first-time asylum applicants relative to the population in Cyprus, lowest in Hungary

Compared with the population of each Member State, the highest number of registered first-time asylum applicants in 2021 was recorded in Cyprus (14 799 first-time applicants per million residents), ahead of Austria (4 111) and Slovenia (2 474).

In contrast, the lowest numbers were recorded in Hungary (4 first-time applicants per million population), followed by Estonia (57) and Slovakia (60). 

In 2021, in the EU as a whole, there were 1 196 first-time asylum applicants per million population.

Bar graph: First-time asylum applicants (non-EU citizens) relative to the population, per million population, 2021, in the EU and EFTA countries

Source datasets: migr_asyappctza and demo_pjan


For more information:

Methodological information:

  • Application for international protection means an application for international protection as defined in the Art. 2(h) of Directive 2011/95/EU, i.e. including requests for refugee status or for subsidiary protection status, irrespective of whether the application was lodged on arrival at the border, or from inside the country, and irrespective of whether the person entered the territory legally (e.g. as a tourist) or illegally.
  • First-time asylum applicant/seeker means a person having submitted an application for international protection or having been included in such application as a family member, for the first time. Applications submitted by persons who are subsequently found to be a subject of a Dublin procedure are included in the statistics on first-time asylum applicants if such persons are also a subject of first asylum application. A person can be recorded as first-time applicant only if he or she had never applied for international protection in the reporting country in the past, irrespective of the fact that he or she is found to have applied in another Member State of the European Union.
  • EU: 2008 - 2013 data on first-time asylum applicants are estimated. This is due to missing country data: 
    • France and Lithuania: 2008 data not available. 
    • Spain and Slovakia: 2008 – 2009 data not available. 
    • Bulgaria, Greece, Luxembourg and Romania: 2008 – 2010 data not available. 
    • Croatia and Hungary: 2008 – 2012 data not available. 
    • Finland: 2008 – 2011 data not available. 
    • Austria: 2008 – 2013 data not available. 


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