Asylum applications dropped 31% amid pandemic, EU agency finds

A Syrian refugee carries his child after they arrived from Turkey to the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos, on an inflatable dinghy, with another boat in the background, Saturday Sept. 26, 2015. More than 260,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in Greece so far this year, most reaching the country's eastern islands on flimsy rafts or boats from the nearby Turkish coast. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Asylum applications have dropped by almost one-third so far this year, largely due to coronavirus-related restrictions, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) said Wednesday.

The Malta-based body recorded 295,075 applications between January and August, down by 31% compared to the same period in 2019. The data covers the EU plus Norway and Switzerland.

“This indicates that reduced mobility and pandemic emergency measures are still affecting the number of applications being lodged with national asylum authorities,” EASO noted.

The agency recorded significant increases in asylum applications in June and July following the relaxation of lockdown measures, while in August they fell by 7% compared to July, to around 40,000.

Syrian, Afghans, Venezuelans and Colombians continue to lodge the most applications, EASO said, adding that its analyses suggest that “these applicants are not new arrivals.”