The number of asylum applications lodged in the EU, Norway, Switzerland and the UK rose by a third in 2021, according to an analysis published on Tuesday by the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA).
A total of 617,800 applications for international protection were filed in 2021, marking a return to pre-pandemic figures. The main countries of origin were Syria with 106,000 applications, Afghanistan with 97,800 applications, which has doubled since 2020, and Iraq with 28,700 applications.
Other countries that saw an increase in requests included Belarus, with 3,800 requests, three times more than the previous year, and North Macedonia, which quadrupled its requests to 5,000.
In an interview with POLITICO, EUAA Executive Director Nina Gregori highlighted the extraordinary circumstances of many Afghans who reapplied in 2021 as the country fell to Taliban insurgents, having been rejected years ago. previous.
“Many Afghan candidates were already in Europe. Some of them had already received a negative decision but they were unable to be fired,” Gregori said. European countries must recognize that “it was different from what they were when they first applied”, added Gregori.
While during the year only 66% of Afghan applications were accepted, this figure rose to around 90% towards the end of the year after the fall of Kabul. Among countries that submitted more than 1,000 applications, Eritreans had the best chance of having their applications accepted with 81% approvals, followed by Yemenis with 79% and Belarusians with 75%.
But overall, only 35% of all applications in the EU, Norway, Switzerland and the UK were accepted.
The report also revealed that there was a backlog of around 443,000 unresolved claims, with pending cases continuously increasing since June 2021. Gregori said the EU already had enough tools that could be used to improve its response time. “Europe can draw up a list of safe third countries and safe countries of origin, but we haven’t succeeded,” she said. Such a list would also “send a message” to smugglers and organized crime, Gregori added.
In 2020, exceptionally few asylum applications were filed due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EUAA said in a press release.