In 2017, the number of first time asylum seekers in the EU went down to levels comparable to those of 2014, just prior to the so-called “European Refugee Crisis”. 704,570 asylum seekers were registered in the EU for 2017, a 44% decrease from 2016, when 1,206,500 first time asylum seekers were registered.
Although their numbers have decreased, the demographics of those seeking asylum have remained unchanged, with Syrians (104,980), Iraqis (51,665), and Afghans (47,760) together constituting 29% of all first time asylum applicants in 2017. Nigerians, Pakistanis, and Eritreans also remained highly represented. The number of first time applicants from Turkey has increased by 41% from 2016 to 2017, and by 200% since 2014. The number of asylum seekers from the Ivory Coast and Guinea has also seen an increase of similar proportions.
The top three countries of asylum also remained unchanged from 2016, with Germany receiving the most first time applications (222,560), followed by France and Italy. One notable change was Bulgaria, which saw its first time asylum applicants decrease from 19,420 in 2016 to 3,695 in 2017; this number is 66% less than in 2014. The number of first time asylum applicants in Denmark decreased by half in 2017, possibly owing to the introduction of a harsh new immigration bill in 2016, which included an extended the wait time for family unification and the seizure of assets worth over $1,450 from asylum seekers. Spain’s number of first time applicants, however, almost doubled from 2016 to 2017, following a spike in arrivals by sea via the Western Mediterranean route.
It remains to be seen whether or not the decrease in the number of first time asylum seekers will cause anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe to decrease as well. The number of asylum decisions pending in the EU was 926,990 at the end of 2017, a small decrease from 2016 (1,098,275 asylum decisions pending at year’s end) and 2015 (1,002,445 asylum decisions pending at year’s end)