UNHCR has released this week a report on asylum claims submitted in 44 industrialised countries during the first six months of 2014. Syrians remain the main applicants for asylum in industrialised countries with 48,400 claims, up from 18,900 in the same period for 2013. Iraq was the second largest, with 21,300 claims, in comparison to 13,600 claims during the same period of 2013, which is 56% higher that period but 10% lower than during the second half of 2013 (23,700). Applications from Syria and Iraq are followed by Afghanistan (19,300 claims), Eritrea (18,900 claims) and Serbia (12,300 claims).

Despite the fact that Syrians constituted the largest group of asylum seekers among industrialized countries in 2014, the figure remains small compared to the number of Syrian refugees hosted by Syria’s neighbouring countries. Over 3 million Syrian refugees are hosted in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Three quarters of all Iraqi asylum seekers sought protection in Turkey.

The findings note that the 28 EU Member States registered 216,300 asylum claims during the first half of 2014, a 23% increase compared to the corresponding period of 2013 (176,200). The statistics further show that within Europe, the largest relative increase in mid-year asylum levels was reported by countries in Southern Europe, namely Italy, receiving 24,500 claims principally from those travelling by boat, and Turkey, who have received 27,700 applications. The figures in Turkey include asylum seekers registered or pre-registered with UNHCR but not the Syrian refugees covered by the Temporary Protection Regime of the Government of Turkey, some 832,000 people as of early September 2014, according to UNHCR.

Germany continues to be the largest recipient country of applications in the EU with 65,700 new asylum applications registered during the first half of 2014. This is an increase of 52% compared to the same period in 2013. France and Sweden followed, with the top five receiving countries (including US and Turkey) receiving 203,700 or 62% of all asylum claims in the 44 industrialized countries.

The report  notes that the only area within the European Union to experience a fall in asylum applications in the first six months of 2014, compared to the same period in 2013 was Central Europe, i.e. Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Figures went down by 47%, with decreases being particularly evident in Hungary and Poland.

UNHCR highlights that it is likely that asylum applications for the whole of 2014 in the 44 industrialized countries may reach 700,000. This would be the highest number in some 20 years.


This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 3 October 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.