Number of asylum-seekers in Europe plunges in 2017 after controversial deal: report

Number of asylum-seekers in Europe plunges in 2017 after controversial deal: report
The EU's controversial 2016 deal with Turkey to curb the flow of migrants appears to have worked, with asylum seeker applications down nearly 45 percent.
2 min read
18 June, 2018
Protesters denounce France's migrant policy [Getty]

The EU's asylum office says the number of people applying for international protection in Europe has plunged since a high in 2015, when more than one million migrants entered. 

EASO said in an annual report that 728,470 application requests for asylum were made in 2017, compared to 1.3 million the previous year. Thirty percent of the applicants come from war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. 

More than 950,000 applications were still pending at the end of last year, almost half of them in Germany. 

Over 460,000 people applied for asylum in Europe in 2013. More than 660,000 did so in 2014. 

In March 2016, the EU and Turkey struck a controversial agreement to cut off the sea crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands that enabled 850,000 people to pour into Europe the year before, many of them fleeing the civil war in Syria.

The agreement, under which all migrants landing on the Greek islands are sent back to Turkey, went into effect that same month. 

In exchange the EU agreed to accelerate the approval of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the European bloc by the end of June 2016. It also pledged to pay 3 billion Euros to Turkey for refugee aid and to kickstart new discussions on Turkey's years-long goal of EU membership. 

Rights groups sharply criticised the 2016 refugee swap deal. Amnesty International has called it "illegal, immoral and inhuman". 

The EU also later reached separate controversial agreements with chaos-wracked Libya to stem the flow of migrants from that country.

In March of this year the European Commission said the EU should pay 3 billion Euros more to keep refugees in Turkey despite concerns about human rights violations in the country. 

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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