213,200 apply for asylum in EU

More than 213,000 people filed first-time asylum applications in the European Union between April and June, 85 per cent more than in the same period last year, new data shows.

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More than one in three sought asylum in Germany, which has become the prime destination for migrants streaming into Europe.

The country registered 80,900 first-time applicants over the three months, 38 per cent of the EU total, according to the Eurostat statistics agency.

Hungary was second in line with 32,700 or 15 per cent of the applications in the EU, followed by Austria with 17,400 or 8 per cent.

Italy, France and Sweden all registered more than 14,000 or around 7 per cent of applications.

Hungary had the highest per capita number of asylum applicants, at 3317 per million inhabitants – ahead of Austria, Sweden and Germany.

Compared with the first three months of this year, the largest increases in the total number of applications were recorded in the Netherlands and Latvia, however. They saw their numbers more than double, registering increases of 159 and 123 per cent respectively.

Among the second-quarter EU total of 213,200 first-time asylum seekers, 43,995 stemmed from war-torn Syria – representing about one out of every five applicants. Most of the Syrians sought asylum in Germany, Hungary, Austria and Sweden.

Nationals from conflict-plagued Afghanistan were second in line, with 26,995 or 13 per cent of the applications. More than half of them applied for asylum in Hungary.

Albanians were the third-largest contingent of asylum seekers, with 17,665 or 8 per cent of first-time applications, even though their country is a candidate for EU membership. Almost all of them applied for asylum in Germany.

But Western Balkan citizens are more likely to have their asylum applications turned down, as many of them are economic migrants without a right to international protection.

The EU is working on creating a list of safe countries from which nationals are unlikely to be granted asylum, so that they can be returned more quickly to their home nations. Albania would be on that list, under proposals currently being negotiated.

From January to March, the EU had contended with high numbers of asylum seekers from Kosovo, which has also been proposed for the safe-country list. But by the second quarter, their numbers plummeted to around 10,000 first-time asylum applicants.

The second-quarter total of 213,200 marked a 15 per cent increase from the first three months of this year.

The influx of migrants and asylum seekers into Europe – the most significant since World War II – has shown no signs of abating since June. More than 500,000 migrants had been detected at EU borders by the end of August, according to the Frontex border agency.

Authorities in some countries have run into trouble processing asylum applications. By the end of June, almost 600,000 applications were pending in the EU, according to Eurostat.

More than half of them were in Germany. The head of the German government department in charge of processing asylum applications resigned on Thursday, following criticism of the backlog.