Only 8,730 asylum applications were registered in the EU+ in April, the lowest since at least 2008, and a massive 87% decrease from pre-COVID-19 levels in January and February
Asylum-related migration to the EU+ was increased in 2019, was further amplified at the beginning of 2020 and then was put under more pressure by the dramatic situation at the Greek border with Turkey. Usually, warm spring weather brings additional detections at the EU external border and applications for asylum, but in 2020 the opposite happened: in mid-March, most Member States and associated countries implemented emergency measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, which effectively closed the external border and most asylum offices, thereby to a large extent temporarily precluding the arrival and registration of migrants and asylum seekers. As a result, in April Frontex recorded their lowest ever number of illegal border-crossings (900 compared to 6 400 the same time last year). In contrast, arrivals and attempted arrivals in the central Mediterranean remained on a par with 2019, despite Italian and Maltese announcements that their ports could not be considered as safe due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April there were 10 times as many applications for asylum as there were detections at the external border, but the number of applications (just shy of 9 000) was still massively decreased by 90 % compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. Most applications were lodged by Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis, and Turks, whereas Latin Americans were unable to lodge applications because of emergency measures in place. In May, as the pandemic eased and emergency measures were being gradually relaxed, asylum applications were rising again albeit slowly with diverse patterns among Member States and their management of backlogs. Within the EU+, the overall reduction in applications lodged coincided with a significant increase in the proportion of repeat applications. Remarkably, decision-making in the EU+ did not decline to the same extent as applications, propped up by a surge of decision-making in some Member States, where the focus was on reducing the backlog of cases for which pre-COVID-19 interviews had already take place. Because different, sometimes older asylum cases were being processed, the overall recognition rate in the EU+ jumped from 30 % to 52 % boosted by the recognition of more Syrian applicants.