EASO Asylum Report 2021: COVID-19 exposes strengths and weaknesses of EU asylum systems
On 29 June 2021, EASO published its Asylum Report 2021, which describes the situation and latest trends of asylum in the EU in 2020. The report provides that five countries (Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar) account for two-thirds of the world’s refugee population.Venezuelan refugees constituted the largest group of new asylum seekers in 2020. It also notes that for the first time since 2017, more decisions on first instance asylum applications were issued than new applications received in 2020. Furthermore, 2020 saw a 32% decrease in the number of asylum applications compared to 2019 (485,000 applications in 2020, compared to 716,000 in 2019), as well as the lowest number of asylum applications in the EU since 2013.
While two-thirds of all asylum applications in 2020 were lodged in just three countries - Germany (122,000), France (93,000) and Spain (89,000) - the impact of arrivals was heightened for countries at the external borders. When considering GDP and population, Cyprus, Greece, and Malta continued to be under the greatest pressure to receive and accommodate asylum applicants.
Just over two-fifths (42%) of all decisions granted some form of protection at first instance in 2020 (224,000). Within the positive decisions issued by authorities, 50% of asylum seekers were granted refugee status, 27% humanitarian protection, and 23% subsidiary protection. Nationals of Eritrea, Syria, and Venezuela continued to receive positive decisions most frequently at first instance (referred to as the recognition rate). The rate climbed over time for applicants from Afghanistan (from 48% in 2017 to 60% in 2020), Nicaragua (6% to 25%), and Belarus (from 12% to 30%).
The report also notes that COVID-19 has impacted on migration flows and asylum systems globally, and observed that while some Member States managed to adjust their asylum procedures to the health emergency, other areas of the Common European Asylum System came to near standstill. Other systemic cracks were accentuated with COVID-19 restrictive measures. As authorities reshuffled accommodation to allow for social distancing, some countries had little room to manoeuvre in already-crowded reception centres.
NIEM’s National Coalition Officer
The Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs