Belgium received 14,035 applications from first-time asylum seekers in 2017, which was 215 fewer than the preceding year, according to figures released on Tuesday by the European Union’s statistical office, Eurostat. Applications for asylum in the EU went down by almost half, from 1,206,000 in 2016 to 649,855 last year. This was comparable to the level reached in 2014 (563,345) before the peaks of 2015 (1,257,000) and 2016.
Syrians (102,400), Iraqis (47,500) and Afghans (43,600) were still the three main nationalities seeking international protection in EU member states. Together they represented 30% of first-time asylum seekers, Eurostat indicated.
In Belgium, the top three were Syrians (2,625 or 19% of the total), Afghans (995 or 7%) and Palestinians (815 or 6%).
The country receiving the largest chunk of applications was Germany, which accounted for 31% of the EU total, registering 198.300 first-time applicants, followed by Italy (126,600 or 20%) and France (91,000 or 14%).
Among Member States with more than 5,000 first-time asylum seekers in 2017, the increase in the number of first-time applicants compared in relative terms to 2016 was highest (+96%) in Spain, which received 14,300 more applications in 2017 than in 2016. Other countries with significant increases were France (+19% or 14,300 more), Greece (+14%; 7,200 more) and Italy (+4%; 5,400 more).
On the other hand, the largest relative decreases were recorded in Germany (-73%), Austria (-44%) and the Netherlands (-17%).
As at the end of 2017, national authorities in EU Member States were processing a combined caseload of 927.300 asylum applications, close to 150,000 fewer than a year before, according to Eurostat. Germany accounted for 443, 800 or 48% of the applications, followed by Italy (152,400; 16%) and Austria (57,700; 6%).