The number of people seeking ‘asylum’ in the European Union has fallen to the lowest level in over a decade during the coronavirus crisis, according to reports.
Prior to the E.U. effectively closing its external borders in March, asylum applications soared to 61,421 for the month of February.
However, just 8,730 applications were received in April – an 86 percent drop, according to figures provided to Reuters by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
“It is clear the access that potential asylum applicants had was severely restricted over the past few months, especially initially,” said Nina Gregori, executive director of the EASO.
“The situation for those in need of asylum has undoubtedly been very challenging. Already fleeing violence and persecution, the COVID-19 crisis has certainly compounded their situations.”
Asylum applications fell off considerably in March, down 43 percent from February, before a precipitous drop in April.
“Just before the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe, applications had increased compared to the same period in 2019 (+16% over January-February 2019), with 65,300 applications lodged in January and 61,100 in February,” the EASO announced in April.
“Thus, March figures are not truly indicative of asylum-related migration trends towards the EU+, but are rather the result of COVID-19 containment measures.”
Syrian nationals represent the largest group of foreigners seeking asylum in the E.U., followed by Afghans, and now Venezuelans and Colombians – a trend that began relatively recently.
In its latest annual report on migrant smuggling, Europol said flows from the Third World into Europe could increase again as border restrictions are relaxed and traffickers resume full-bore operations.