Europe: 2022 asylum seeker applications 'highest in seven years', report says
Countries across Europe received almost one million asylum seeker applications in 2022 - the highest in seven years - a new report has revealed.
The European Union for Asylum (EUAA) on Wednesday said member states plus Norway and Switzerland recorded 966,000 cases last year, witnessing an almost 50 percent increase in comparison to 2021.
The increase was attributed partly to the removal of coronavirus restrictions as well as "an increase in food insecurity and conflict", prompting people to seek a better life overseas, the Malta-based agency added.
In that year, around 97 percent of Syrian asylum seekers in 2022 were first-time applicants, while an estimated 92 percent of Afghans were.
Syrians continue to suffer from the country’s 12-year-long civil war, which began as peaceful pro-democracy protests against Bashar Al-Assad's regime were brutally suppressed.
The conflict has killed at least 500,000 Syrians and left millions more displaced. Abject poverty, economic woes, and safety concerns have prompted Syrians to flee.
Meanwhile, a worsening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan - exacerbated by the Taliban’s takeover of the country in August 2021 - has driven many Afghans to leave. The country suffers from extreme levels of poverty, worsened since the Taliban seized power.
Approximately 43,000 applicants said they were unaccompanied minors – the highest number since 2015, the agency said, while citizens from the North African countries of Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia applied in record numbers.
The latest statistics come as an additional four million Ukrainians sought shelter in Western and Central Europe, in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
Ukrainian refugees in the EU benefit from the Temporary Protection Directive, a procedure that exempts them from undergoing asylum procedures.
The record numbers of asylum seekers have resulted in the EU coming under "high pressure" as asylum authorities "struggle to cope" with increasing numbers of applicants, according to the report.
Since 2008, higher levels of asylum seeker applications were only seen in 2015 and 2016, at the height of the refugee crisis. 1.3 and 1.2 million asylum seeker applications were filed in those years, respectively.