Applications for international protection in the countries of the EU+ jumped by 20 per cent in a year to 58 778 in March 2019, with the most applicants coming from Syria, Venezuela and Afghanistan, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) said on May 14.
The EU+ is composed of the 28 EU countries plus Norway and Switzerland.
EASO said that the increase is partly due to the highest recorded number of applications by nationals exempt from visa requirements to enter the Schengen area, which constituted more than 28 per cent of all applications lodged in March 2019.
Within this group, nationals of Venezuela (second), Colombia (fifth), Albania (ninth) and Georgia (10th) were among the top 10 countries of origin of applicants in the EU+ in the reporting period, EASO said.
The number of applicants in March from Syria, Venezuela and Afghanistan jointly accounted for a quarter of all applications lodged in the EU+.
The largest month-on-month increase was registered with regard to Afghan applications, which were also considerably more numerous (+ 48 per cent) than in March 2018.
Venezuelans registered a new record level for a second month in a row; compared to a year ago, applications by Venezuelan nationals almost tripled.
The number of Syrian applications remained stable.
Afghan nationals lodged 4 280 applications for international protection in March, considerably more than in February (+ 19 per cent).
Venezuelan nationals lodged about 4304 applications for international protection in March, the highest number ever registered in the EPS data exchange, after a record level was already registered a month earlier in February.
Compared to March 2018, there was a nearly-threefold increase.
Iraq, Colombia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Albania and Georgia also featured among the 10 most common countries of origin of applicants.
Latin-American countries of origin continue to be a focus due to their steady rise in terms of applications lodged. EASO recently reported that applications from this region had reached a record.
With 4 304 applications lodged in March, Venezuela was the second main country of origin for a second consecutive month, following Syria (5 336 applications).
The number of Venezuelan applications in March translates into a record number for the country after the one already set in February (3 995).
Over the past six months, about 43 per cent of Venezuelan applicants received international protection in the first-instance, even though for many others the decisions remain pending, EASO said.
Colombian nationals also lodged an unprecedented high number of applications for international protection in the EU+. In March, Colombian applications totalled more than 2 551, a 32 per cent increase compared to February, and the third consecutive month with increasing applications. The recognition rate for Colombian nationals remained much lower compared to Venezuelans, at 11 per cent over the past six months, even though the number of first-instance decisions issued was very low.
In addition to Venezuelans and Colombians, there were also increases in applications by other Latin-American nationalities, such as Salvadorians, Nicaraguans, Hondurans and Peruvians, although at a lower scale, EASO said.