BRUSSELS — Requests for asylum in the European Union shot up in the first half of 2023, according to an official annual report.
Asylum seekers lodged 519,000 claims in the first half of 2023, marking the highest number since 2016, when applications stood at 633,184. Based on current rates, asylum applications could surpass 1 million by the end of the year.
EU member countries are lacking capacity to rapidly process asylum claims. The amount of cases awaiting decisions increased 34 percent in 2023 as EU nations struggled to cope with increasing arrivals of migrants.
This comes as the EU aims to introduce new rules to speed up asylum requests ahead of the European election next June.
The EU’s flagship migration package — which still needs to win the backing of member countries — is seen as the best chance to overhaul its fractured asylum processing procedure.
The European Commission hopes EU countries will green-light the final plank of the migration reform in the fall, which would kick off negotiations with the European Parliament on a final agreement.
This comes amid a spike in Syrian refugees seeking shelter in the EU and rising numbers of sub-Saharan African migrants making their way to the Continent.
More than a decade on from the start of the civil war in Syria, rising numbers of refugees have been applying for asylum in the EU this year, with 62 percent of them submitting their original claims in Germany. In 2015 and 2016, Germany accepted over 1 million refugees, most of who were fleeing from Syria.
In 2023, the EU’s most populous country led as home for the most applications (30 percent), followed by Spain (17 percent) and France (16 percent).
At the same time, asylum claims from sub-Saharan African countries including Guinea and Ivory Coast more than doubled in the first half of 2023, while migrant departures from North African countries along the central Mediterranean route soared. Also increasing numbers of Russians and Iranians have been granted international protection in the EU this year.
Northern European countries have historically accused southern countries of not accepting their fair share of migrants through so-called Dublin transfers; the number of such transfers in 2022 rose slightly compared with 2021, but remained very low, according to the report.
The EU’s migration reform proposes to scale up such transfers by linking them to solidarity measures such as relocations and financial support to front-line countries.