Clare Roth, Reuters, February 14, 2019
The number of people seeking asylum in the European Union fell for a third straight year in 2018 to less than half the peak during the 2015-2016 migration crisis, data released on Wednesday showed.
The 2018 figure was slightly below 641,000 asylum applications filed in 2014, the last year before a surge in arrivals by the Mediterranean sea created a high-profile humanitarian and political crisis.
The asylum figures peaked at 1.4 million and 1.3 million in 2015 and 2016. One of the main sea routes used by asylum seekers to reach Europe — from Turkey to Greece — was largely shut in 2016, and another — from Libya to Italy — was sharply curbed last year.
“We are returning to pre-crisis levels. We are on the right track,” the EU’s top migration official, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said of the report’s findings.
Asylum approval rates are falling in the EU, with rejections outnumbering approvals two to one last year, the report by the bloc’s asylum agency EASO showed. In 2015, more than half of applications were successful.
The highest number of applicants still came from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq last year, although there was a sharp spike in the number of Colombians and Venezuelans applying.