Asylum statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from October 2013. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: June 2014.
Figure 1: Asylum applications
(non-EU-27) in the EU-27 Member States, 2002–12
(1 000) - Source: Eurostat (migr_asyctz) and (migr_asyappctza)
Table 1: Countries of origin of
(non-EU-27) asylum seekers in the EU-27 Member States, 2011 and 2012 - Source: Eurostat (migr_asyappctza)
Table 2: Number of
(non-EU-27) asylum applicants in the EU and EFTA Member States and their age distribution, 2012 - Source: Eurostat (migr_asyappctza) and (migr_asyunaa)
Figure 2: Share of male
(non-EU-27) asylum applicants in the EU-27, by age group and status of minors, 2012
(%) - Source: Eurostat (migr_asyappctza) and (migr_asyunaa)
Table 3: Five main citizenships of
(non-EU-27) asylum applicants, 2012 (1)
(number, rounded figures) - Source: Eurostat (migr_asyappctza)
Table 4: First instance decisions on
(non-EU-27) asylum applications, 2012
(number, rounded figures) - Source: Eurostat (migr_asydcfsta)
Table 5: Final decisions on
(non-EU-27) asylum applications, 2012
(number, rounded figures) - Source: Eurostat (migr_asydcfina)

This article describes recent developments in relation to numbers of asylum applicants and decisions on asylum applications in the European Union (EU). Asylum is a form of international protection given by a state on its territory. It is granted to a person who is unable to seek protection in his/her country of citizenship and/or residence, in particular for fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

Main statistical findings

Asylum applicants

Having peaked in 1992 (670 000 applications in the EU-15) and again in 2001 (424 200 applications in the EU-27), the number of asylum applications within the EU-27 fell in successive years to just below 200 000 applications by 2006. From this relative low point there was a gradual increase in the number of applications and by 2012 the number of asylum seekers in the EU-27 reached just over 320 000 (see Figure 1).

This latest figure marked an increase of 18 770 additional applicants in relation to the year before, in part due to a considerably higher number of applicants from Syria and to a lesser extent from Russia, Western Balkans countries (in particular Serbia, Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina), Pakistan and Georgia (see Table 1). As in the three previous years, Afghani and Russian citizens topped the ranking of asylum seekers in the EU-27 in 2012, closely followed this time by Syrians; just over 28 000 applicants for asylum in the EU were Afghanis (nearly 9 % of the total number of applicants), while Russians and Syrians each accounted for 7.5 % of the total. The largest increases in asylum applicants in 2012 in percentage terms were recorded for individuals from some of the EU’s near neighbours, namely Syria, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The number of asylum applicants and their relative importance (for example, their number in relation to the total population of the country where the application is lodged) varies considerably between EU Member States. The highest numbers of asylum seekers in 2012 were reported by Germany and France, the former receiving more than 77 000 applicants and the latter more than 61 000 (see Table 2). This was considerably higher than in any of the other EU Member States; Sweden (44 000 applicants), the United Kingdom and Belgium (both 28 000 applicants) followed. The total number of persons seeking asylum in these five Member States accounted for close to three quarters (74 %) of the EU-27 total in 2012.

Nearly four in every five (78.7 %) asylum seekers in the EU-27 in 2012 were aged less than 35 (see Table 2); those aged 18–34 accounted for slightly more than half (51.1 %) of the total number of applicants, while minors aged less than 18 accounted for more than one quarter.

This age distribution for asylum applicants was common in the vast majority of the EU Member States, with the largest share of applicants usually being those aged 18–34. There was one exception to this pattern: Poland reported a higher proportion of asylum applicants aged less than 18.

In 2012 there were just over 12 700 applications in the EU-27 from unaccompanied minors, an increase over 2011 when there were 12 400. An unaccompanied minor is a person below the age of 18 who arrives on the territory of an EU Member State unaccompanied by an adult responsible for them or a minor who is left unaccompanied after having entered the territory of an EU Member State.

The distribution by sex shows that asylum applicants were more often men than women. Across the EU-27 as a whole, the gender distribution was most balanced for asylum applicants aged less than 14, where boys accounted for 52 % of the total number of applications in 2012. There was a greater degree of gender inequality for asylum applicants aged 14–17 or 18–34, where almost three quarters of applicants were male. The gender difference was even more apparent when considering the group of unaccompanied minors, as more than four out of every five unaccompanied minors was male. Female applicants outnumbered male applicants for asylum seekers aged 65 and over, although this group is relatively small, accounting for just 0.9 % of the total number of applications in 2012.

A number of factors play a role in determining where an asylum seeker will lodge his/her application. These include historical ties between countries of origin and destination (former colonies for instance), a certain knowledge of the language used in the host country, the presence of established ethnic communities, and the economic situation of the destination country. These pull factors largely overlap with the drivers of other non-asylum migration flows. However, other factors such as the perceived likelihood that the destination country will grant a protection status or the benefits connected to a protection status are specific to asylum seekers. Table 3 provides an overview of the five largest groups of asylum applicants (by citizenship) in each of the EU Member State.

Afghanis and Syrians both accounted for the highest number of applicants in four of the EU Member States, including 7 920 Syrian applicants in Sweden and 4 015 Afghanis in Austria. Georgia, Pakistan, and Somalia each accounted for the highest number of applicants in three Member States, including 4 880 applicants from Pakistan in the United Kingdom. Each of Iraq, Russia and Serbia had the highest number of applicants in two Member States, including 12 810 applicants from Serbia in Germany and 6 015 from Russia in France.

Decisions on asylum applications

There is a wide diversity in the handling of asylum applications across the EU Member States: this may be linked to differences in the citizenship of applicants in each EU Member State, and may also reflect asylum and migration policies that are applied in each country.

In 2012, just under one third (31 %) of EU-27 first instance asylum decisions resulted in positive outcomes, that is grants of refugee or subsidiary protection status, or an authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons. This share was considerably lower (19 %) for final decisions (based on appeal or review).

For first instance decisions, more than two fifths (44 %) of all positive decisions in the EU-27 in 2012 resulted in grants of refugee status, while for final decisions the share was notably higher, at just over one half (54 %). In absolute numbers, a total of 50 845 persons were granted refugee status in the EU-27 in 2012 (first instance and final decisions), 33 525 subsidiary protection status, and 25 760 authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons. In absolute terms, the highest numbers of positive asylum decisions (first instance and final decisions) in 2012 were recorded in Italy (22 820) and Germany (22 165), followed by Sweden (15 290), the United Kingdom (14 645) and France (14 325). Altogether, these five EU Member States accounted for 81 % of the total number of positive decisions issued in the EU. Though refugee and subsidiary protection status are defined by EU law, humanitarian reasons are specific to the national legislation, which explains why the latter is not applicable in certain EU Member States.

Data sources and availability

Eurostat produces statistics on a range of issues relating to international migration. Between 1986 and 2007, data on asylum was collected on the basis of a gentlemen’s agreement. Since 2008 data have been provided to Eurostat under the provisions of Article 4 of Regulation (EC) 862/2007: most of the statistics presented in this article were collected within this regulatory framework. Data are provided to Eurostat with a monthly frequency (for asylum application statistics), quarterly frequency (for first instance decisions) or annual frequency (for final decisions based on appeal or review, resettlement and unaccompanied minors). The statistics are based on administrative sources and are supplied to Eurostat by statistical authorities, home office ministries/ministries of the interior, or related immigration agencies in the EU Member States.

Two different categories of persons should be taken into account when analysing asylum statistics. The first includes asylum seekers who have lodged a claim (asylum applications) and whose claim is under consideration by a relevant authority. The second is composed of persons who have been recognised, after consideration, as refugees, or have been granted another kind of international protection (subsidiary protection), or were granted protection on the basis of the national law related to international protection (authorisations to stay for humanitarian reasons), or were rejected from having any form of protection. Since the entry into force of Regulation (EC) 862/2007, statistics on asylum decisions have been made available at difference stages of the asylum procedure. First instance decisions are decisions granted by the respective authority acting as a first instance of the administrative/judicial asylum procedure in the receiving country. In contrast, final decisions in appeal or review relate to decisions granted at the final instance of administrative/judicial asylum procedure and which result from an appeal lodged by an asylum seeker rejected in the preceding stage. Since asylum procedures and the number/levels of decision making bodies differ among the EU Member States, the true final instance may be, according to the national legislation and administrative procedures, a decision of the highest national court. However, the applied methodology defines that final decisions should refer to what is effectively a final decision in the vast majority of cases: in other words, once all normal routes of appeal have been exhausted.


The 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees (as amended by the 1967 New York Protocol) has, for over 60 years, defined who is a refugee, and laid down a common approach towards refugees that has been one of the cornerstones for the development of a common asylum system within the EU.

Since 1999, the EU has worked towards creating a common European asylum regime in accordance with the Geneva Convention and other applicable international instruments. A number of directives in this area have been developed. The four main legal instruments on asylum — all recently recast — are:

  • the Qualification Directive 2011/95/EU on standards for the qualification of non-EU nationals and stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection;
  • the Asylum Procedures Directive 2013/32/EU on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection;
  • the Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection;
  • the Dublin Regulation (EU) 604/2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or stateless person.

The Hague programme was adopted by heads of state and government on 5 November 2004. It puts forward the idea of a common European asylum system (CEAS), in particular, it raises the challenge to establish common procedures and uniform status for those granted asylum or subsidiary protection. The European Commission adopted on 17 February 2006 a Communication on ‘strengthened practical cooperation’ (COM(2006) 67 final), presenting a vision of how EU Member States could further cooperate on asylum. The European Commission’s policy plan on asylum (COM(2008) 360 final) was presented in June 2008 which included three pillars to underpin the development of the CEAS:

  • bringing more harmonisation to standards of protection by further aligning the EU Member States’ asylum legislation;
  • effective and well-supported practical cooperation;
  • increased solidarity and sense of responsibility among EU Member States, and between the EU and non-member countries.

With this in mind, in 2009 the European Commission made a proposal to establish a European Asylum Support Office (EASO). This proposal was formally approved during the first half of 2010 when a decision was taken by the Council and the European Parliament to locate the headquarters of this new office in Valletta, Malta. The EASO supports EU Member States in their efforts to implement a more consistent and fair asylum policy, for example, by helping to identify good practices, organising training at the European level, and improving access to accurate information on countries of origin. It also provides technical and operational support to EU Member States facing particular pressures (in other words, those EU Member States receiving large numbers of asylum applicants). The EASO became fully operational in June 2011 and has worked to increase its capacity, activity and influence, working with the European Commission and the United Nations high commission for refugees (UNHCR). The EASO has started to provide assistance to several EU Member States that formally requested support, including relocation of international protection beneficiaries within the EU’s pilot project on intra-EU relocation (EUREMA) from Malta, co-funded under the European refugee fund (ERF).

In May 2010, the European Commission presented an action plan for unaccompanied minors (COM(2010) 213 final), who are regarded as the most exposed and vulnerable victims of migration. This plan aims to set-up a coordinated approach and commits all EU Member States to grant high standards of reception, protection and integration for unaccompanied minors. As a complement to this action plan, the European migration network has produced a comprehensive EU study on reception policies, as well as return and integration arrangements for unaccompanied minors.

In December 2011, the European Commission adopted a Communication on ‘Enhanced intra-EU solidarity in the field of asylum’ (COM(2011) 835 final). This provided proposals to reinforce practical, technical and financial cooperation, moving towards a better allocation of responsibilities and improved governance of the asylum system in the EU, namely through:

  • introducing an evaluation and early warning mechanism to detect and address emerging problems;
  • making the supporting role of the EASO more effective;
  • increasing the amount of funds available and making these more flexible, taking into account significant fluctuations in the number of asylum seekers;
  • developing and encouraging the relocation of beneficiaries of international protection between different EU Member States.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

International Migration and Asylum (t_migr)
Asylum applications (tps00021)
Asylum decisions (tps00163)
Asylum rejections (tps00164)


International Migration and Asylum (migr)
Asylum (migr_asy)
Applications (migr_asyapp)
Asylum applications by citizenship till 2007 Annual data (rounded) (migr_asyctz)
New asylum applications by citizenship till December 2007 Monthly data (rounded) (migr_asyctzm)
Asylum and new asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex Annual aggregated data (rounded) (migr_asyappctza)
Asylum and new asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex Monthly data (rounded) (migr_asyappctzm)
Persons subject of asylum applications pending at the end of the month by citizenship, age and sex - Monthly data (rounded) (migr_asypenctzm)
Asylum applications withdrawn by citizenship, age and sex Annual aggregated data (rounded) (migr_asywitha)
Asylum applications withdrawn by citizenship, age and sex - Monthly data (rounded) (migr_asywithm)
Asylum applicants considered to be unaccompanied minors by citizenship, age and sex Annual data (rounded) (migr_asyunaa)
Decisions on applications and resettlement (migr_asydec)
Decisions on asylum applications by citizenship till 2007 Annual data (rounded) (migr_asydctzy)
Decisions on asylum applications by citizenship till December 2007 Monthly data (rounded) (migr_asydctzm)
First instance decisions on applications by citizenship, age and sex Annual aggregated data (rounded) (migr_asydcfsta)
First instance decisions on applications by citizenship, age and sex Quarterly data (rounded) (migr_asydcftq)
Decisions withdrawing status granted at first instance decision by type of status withdrawn and by citizenship Annual aggregated data (rounded) (migr_asywitfsta)
Decisions withdrawing status granted at first instance decision by type of status withdrawn and by citizenship Quarterly data (rounded) (migr_asywitfstq)
Final decisions on applications by citizenship, age and sex Annual data (rounded) (migr_asydcfina)
Decisions withdrawing status granted as final decision by type of status withdrawn Annual data (rounded) (asywitfina)
Resettled persons by age, sex and citizenship Annual data (rounded) (migr_asyresa)
Dublin statistics (migr_dub)
Incoming requests - annual data (migr_dubin)
Outgoing requests - annual data (migr_dubout)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

External links