BRUSSELS — The European Union's asylum agency said Tuesday that the number of people seeking international protection in Europe hit its lowest level last year since 2013, but that the drop was due mostly to coronavirus travel restrictions.
EASO said in a new report that 485,000 asylum applications were made in the 27 EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland in 2020. That's a 32% decrease over the previous year.
It said that "reduced applications were primarily due to restricted mobility and travel, rather than a decrease in the number of people in need of international protection."
Two-thirds of the applications were lodged in just three countries. Germany, where most people from conflict-torn Syria are seeking refuge, registered 122,000 applications, while France had 93,000 applications for international protection and Spain had 89,000.
But EASO said that when economic growth and population size are taken into account, Cyprus, Greece and Malta remain under the greatest pressure to process applications and house asylum-seekers.
Most people seeking protection were from Syria and Afghanistan, followed by nationals of Venezuela and Colombia – who tend to lodge their applications in Spain – and Iraqis. Citizens of Turkey remain among the top seven nationalities hoping to find protection in Europe.