Applications for international protection filed in the European Union last year fell by 7% compared with 2015. As a consequence of the influx of refugees in 2015, the number of decisions granted at first instance increased by 84% in 2016, a record, according to the annual report of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), presented this Wednesday in Brussels.
In 2016, almost 1.3 million applications for international protection were filed in the EU+ (EU Member States plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Lichtenstein). This represents a decrease of 7% since 2015, when nearly 1.4 million applications were submitted.
However, pressure on asylum and reception systems remained high, as the large wave of arrivals in 2015 had to be absorbed. The number of applicants awaiting a final decision thus increased by 7% compared to 2015.
The overall recognition rate was 61% for first instance decisions, a figure that was also on the rise.
With 58% of the applications registered in its territory, Germany remains by far the most popular country for asylum seekers, ahead of Italy, France, Greece and Austria.
Belgium is twelfth in the ranking, with 18,280 applications submitted in 2016, representing 1.4% of all applications filed within the EU+.
Most of the requests for protection came from Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi nationals. About one third of the applicants were unaccompanied minors.