Applications for asylum in Europe drop sharply amid pandemic

BRUSSELS (AP) — Applications for asylum in the European Union dropped by more than 30% in 2020 compared to the previous year, reaching their lowest level since 2013, according the bloc’s asylum agency.

The European Asylum Support Office said on Thursday that a decrease of 31% in the 27 member states plus Norway and Switzerland is mainly the result of emergency travel restrictions put in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

The agency noted that despite the virus crisis, national asylum authorities “showed resilience in sustaining many activities, resulting in a decrease in backlogs of pending applications.”

According to figures provided by the office, 461,300 applications were lodged in 2020, compared to 671,200 in 2019. The agency said that about 4% of all applications were lodged by people claiming to be unaccompanied minors.

As in 2019, Syrians lodged the most applications (14%), followed by Afghans, Venezuelans, Colombians and Iraqis.

“Together, the five top nationalities lodged over two fifths of all asylum applications,” the European asylum office said.

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