The number of asylum applications in the European Union (EU) soared to almost one million last year, a 50 percent increase over 2021 and the highest level since the 2016 influx of refugees into the bloc.
The EU Agency for Asylum (EUAA) said on Wednesday that the bloc’s 27 member states plus Switzerland and Norway (EU+) registered 966,000 applications in 2022.
According to the EUAA, the increase in 2021 was due in part to the removal of COVID-19-related restrictions and to underlying longer-term trends, such as conflicts and food insecurity in many regions of origin, resulting in strong push factors.
Secondary movements within the EU also contributed to the increase, and a significant number of applications were also filed by nationals from visa-free countries who arrived legally.
The agency, based in Valletta, Malta, said the largest groups of applicants were Syrians (132,000), Afghans (129,000) and Turks (55,000), followed by Venezuelans (51,000) and Colombians (43,000), who both filed about three times as many applications as in 2021.
It also said that the caseload of pending applications reached its highest level since 2017.
The figures do not include the estimated 4 million people fleeing Ukraine, who benefit from temporary protection.
In 2022, EU+ asylum authorities issued 632,000 first-instance decisions, up by a fifth from 2021. At the end of last year, 636,000 applicants were awaiting a decision at first instance, a 44 percent increase compared to 2021. ■