Asylum report 2023. Data and comments on the current situation

Legal - August 30, 2023

The European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) is an agency of the European Union that has the role to support member states in implementing the package of EU laws governing asylum, international protection and reception conditions, known as the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

The European Union Agency for Asylum once a year publishes the so-called ‘Asylum report’, which contains comprehensive data related to the developments that the member states of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland experience in terms of asylum.

This year the report was published in July and it contains data referring to the year 2022. The EUAA report is particularly significant in that it investigates one of the issues that has resonated with the European Union since 2015. Migration and asylum are two key factors for the EU and beyond, and consequently the policies that are put in place on these fronts need to be carefully monitored and evaluated.

As described in that report, last year there was a huge amount of people seeking protection, and a sharp increase in asylum applications filed in Europe and the forced displacement of millions of people from Ukraine also as a result of the Russian invasion was analyzed. Because of this, the European Union with its member states had to mobilize a huge number of resources.

One of the major ones that unleashed unprecedented pressure in terms of the reception system was the war between Russia and Ukraine. Indeed, with the beginning of the conflict, the refugees already coming from other parts of the world were joined by tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who had to turn to the EU to escape the war, consequently going to press on already saturated reception systems.

The European Union obviously could not back down, having to dutifully take in all those people who forced by the brutality of the war triggered by the Russian invasion were rightly let into the territory of member states.

In terms of asylum applications filed during 2022, applications for international protection were quantitatively much higher than in previous years. The total number of such applications amounted to about 996,000, an increase of about 50 percent over those registered in 2021.

Most of the applications were filed in the countries of Germany, France, Spain, Austria and Italy. The majority of asylum seekers were citizens from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the aforementioned Ukraine.

In contrast, in terms of the withdrawal of applications, in 2022 the applications that were withdrawn were at a number of about 140,000, which is double the number in 2021 and the highest number since 2016.

899,000 asylum applications were pending a decision at the end of 2022, an increase of nearly one-fifth from the previous year. This figure points out that last year saw the highest number of pending cases since April 2020. The balance of pending cases was far higher than the pre-crisis level in 2014, increasing the pressure on national reception systems.

Asylum applications filed then had a percentage related to minors. There were 42,000 asylum applications involving unaccompanied foreign minors, the highest figure since 2016, an increase of three-fifths over the previous year and slightly higher than the growth in total applications (+53 percent). Just two citizenships together accounted for two-thirds of applications for unaccompanied foreign minors: nearly half (20,000) were filed by Afghans and 10,000 by Syrians.

As mentioned above, the year of 2022 was a record year for asylum seekers and those displaced from Ukraine, who numbered more than 4 million, and who sought temporary protection.

Such high numbers meant that national systems were under great pressure, exacerbated by a situation that all EU member states have been experiencing for almost a decade now and which they have to cope with by every possible means, both at national and EU level.

In particular, the European Union has responded to the Ukrainian refugee crisis in a way that protects all those people who have been forced to leave their land, their homes, and sometimes even their families. European legislation has helped to address this difficult and unexpected situation that has affected the entire world.

Underlying the European response is the principle of solidarity. Solidarity not only among the countries belonging to the big family of the European Union, but solidarity also among the various actors who were able to mobilize great resources and allocate them to one and the same purpose. These actors have been the EU institutions and agencies, the various national and local authorities̀, the various international and civil society organizations, and also communities and private citizens who have come together and deployed their respective expertise to provide effective solutions.

The Russian-Ukrainian crisis also made it even more evident how necessary it was to proceed with reforming the Common European Asylum System. That is why, after a long time, the reform of the so-called migration and asylum pact was also finally achieved. A pact that must be as effective as possible and that finally put in concrete terms the importance of the external dimension and defense of European borders, as well as cooperation with countries of transit and origin.

The principle that must be pursued in the asylum process in Europe has to do not only with modernizing border management, but that process must also provide protection to those who seek it, always with the understanding that they must meet the requirements and that security within the EU is guaranteed once they cross borders.

The current global geopolitical situation requires that the law constantly adapt to the changing context, intervening quickly and in a timely manner to address any legislative gaps that may exist. In asylum matters, within the European Union, this is as high a priority as ever. Over the past year some progress has been made, mainly because the migration and asylum-seeker situation had reached a point where it had become impossible not to intervene.

In this international scenario, it is also crucial to understand the importance of cooperation and collaboration at all levels, from local to national to supranational and international. It is also important that at the European Union level all institutions are traveling on the same wavelength, making themselves available to each other to design and implement suitable solutions to deal with the issues that the geopolitical context confronts.

An important role is also played by the European Union Agency for Asylum, which intends to work increasingly closely with member countries to verify the operational and technical application of EU legal obligations and assist member states in identifying possible limitations to asylum and reception systems, ultimately contributing to a further harmonized EU asylum system.

The process that can make the European Union able to deal structurally with the problem of migrants and asylum seekers is still a long one, especially considering the many events that have occurred and that do not seem to cease over time, making European asylum and migration policies more emergency rather than general. However, it should be acknowledged that during 2023 this issue has received a new and renewed attention from European institutions, mainly due to the push by some countries who consider it essential to work on securing the EU’s external borders and to adopt concrete strategies to contain the migration phenomenon.