According to official numbers released Tuesday, the number of migrants filing asylum claims in the EU increased by 28 percent in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year.
According to the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA), 519,000 such claims were made in the 27-nation bloc and associated countries Switzerland and Norway between January and June of this year.
This puts the EU on track to welcome over one million asylum seekers this year, the highest number since 2015-2016, when it saw a massive influx, primarily of Syrians fleeing their country’s turmoil.
The group received 1.35 million asylum claims in 2015, followed by 1.25 million more in 2016.
Numbers fell in 2017 after the EU struck a pact with Turkey to tighten border controls, and during the height of the Covid epidemic in 2020 and 2021, when travel restrictions were imposed.
Numbers have since rebounded, with 2022 seeing a 53-percent rise in applications, putting many EU countries “under pressure,” the EUAA said.
In many situations, accommodation and support are already pushed tight, as numerous EU nations host four million Ukrainian refugees who benefit from a protective status separate from asylum as a result of Russia’s attack on their country.
Syrians and Afghans account for nearly a quarter of asylum applications received so far this year.
The next main nationalities seeking protection in Europe are those from Venezuela, Turkey, Colombia, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Germany, which took in most of the Syrian refugees in 2015-2016, continues to be the top EU destination for asylum-seekers, principally those from Syria and Afghanistan.
Germany received 62 percent of all asylum applications by Syrians in the EU in the first half of 2023.
Spain was the main destination for Venezuelan asylum-seekers, who tended to be granted humanitarian visas rather than asylum status where their cases warranted protection.
Overall, 41 percent of applicants received either refugee status or another form of protection allowing them to stay, but there were very different outcomes associated with different nationalities.
Syrians and Afghans, with conflict and repression at home, were more likely to get such status, while Turks were more likely to be rejected.
The EUAA said the numbers of Russians and Iranians being granted protection in Europe has increased compared to recent previous years.