The European Union received almost a million asylum applications in 2022

FILE – Refugees wait in a crowd to be transported after fleeing Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File) (Markus Schreiber/)

Nearly a million people applied for international protection in the European Union in 2022, according to data published on Wednesday, bringing the number of asylum applications to a level not seen since the 2015-2016 refugee crisis.

The EU asylum agency said last year there were 966,000 asylum applications in the 27 EU countries, as well as in Norway and Switzerland, 50% more than in 2021. That does not include more than 4 million Ukrainian refugees who have been granted temporary protection in the country. EU, a special mechanism activated to prevent the collapse of already backward asylum systems.

The European agency linked the increase to the continued easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions, which is increasing food insecurity and conflict in many parts of the world. Although most asylum seekers enter the EU legally, mainly by plane on travel visas, some have also crossed the EU’s land and sea borders without permission, mainly through the Western Balkans and the Mediterranean.

FILE – Men organize their belongings in a makeshift camp outside the Petit Chateau reception center in Brussels, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, File) (olivier matthys/)

After more than a decade of war and economic collapse in his country, Syrians continue to be the main nationality for asylum seekers in Europe with more than 130,000 applications. Them closely followed the afghans fleeing the spiral of security, humanitarian and financial problems that followed the Taliban takeover in August 2021, with 129,000 applications.

In third place the applicants for Turkeythat they doubled their number with 55,000 applications. Skyrocketing inflation and “democratic rollback” are among the factors believed to have caused the rise, the agency said.

In many places, reception centers are overflowing, leaving asylum seekers on the streets.

FILE – Ukrainian refugees line up for food in the welcome area after their arrival at the main train station in Berlin, Germany, on March 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File) (Michael Sohn/)

The recent earthquake that killed nearly 46,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless in Turkey and Syria has raised fears of a possible increase in irregular border crossings into Greece. Germany offered earlier this month to temporarily ease visa restrictions for some earthquake survivors, while Spain promised to resettle a small group of 100 vulnerable Syrian refugees from Turkey, which hosts 4 million refugees.

Venezuelans, Colombians, Bangladeshis and Georgians applied for asylum in record numbers last year, as did Moroccans, Tunisians and Egyptians.. Around the 4% of asylum seekers in 2022 claimed to be unaccompanied minors.

The European agency did not say which EU countries received the most applications last year. But an internal EU migration report seen by the Associated Press lists Germany, France, Spain, Austria and Italy in the top five.

FILE – Two men share a meal in a makeshift camp in front of the Petit Chateau reception center in Brussels, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, File) (olivier matthys/)

Asylum authorities issued decisions on more than 600,000 claims last year, but received even more new cases, adding to the existing backlog. Of the applications analyzed, 40% were granted refugee status or subsidiary protection, mainly for Syrian, Belarusian, Eritrean, Yemeni and Malian applicants, as well as for the majority of Ukrainians who chose to apply for asylum instead of temporary protection .

(with information from AP)

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