During the past year European Union countries received 664,680 applications for international protection, a ten percent drop when compared to 2017. The reduction, however, was not reflected in all EU countries, as in the case of Malta, applications increased by nearly 300, or 16%, to a total of 2,130 applications, a quarter of which were Syrian immigrants.
Cyprus, Greece and Malta are the three countries with the highest number of applications for protection during the past year, when compared to size of population.
According to the annual report of the European Asylum Support Office, EASO, which is based in Malta, during 2018 Malta received 2,130 applications, an increase of nearly 300 when compared to 2017 (1,840) and nearly double the number for 2014 (1,350). 23% of applications processed by the Maltese authorities in 2018 were from Syrian citizens. At the same time, in 2018 Malta turned down a record 855 applications for protection, more than double the number for 2017 (345).
In total, the 28 EU member states together with Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein received 664,480 applications for protection. More than half were received by three countries – Germany (184,180), France (120,425) and Greece (66,965). In Italy applications for protection dropped by 53% – from 128,850 in 2017 to nearly 60,000 in 2018 (59,950).
Figures in the annual EASO report show that in 2018 Malta approved 150 applications for refugee status, half of them from Syrians, whilst 475 persons were granted subsidiary protection, nearly half of them Libyans. 25 0thers were grated humanitarian protection.
EASO Director Nina Gregori stated that during the first five months of this year a significant increase was noted in the number of migrants seeking political asylum in the European Union, particularly from South American countries like Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru.
Many of these applications are being processed in Spain,which last year registered a 50% increase in the number of persons seeking asylum.