The European Union has received at least 648,000 applications seeking asylum last year, a 33 per cent rise from 2020, the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) said in a report on Tuesday.

Bangladesh is among top six countries whose citizens are seeking asylum in the block.

The EUAA released a 385-page annual report on the state of asylum in Europe at a virtual event in Brussels on Wednesday local time.

The report highlighted the situation of 2021 and early 2022, especially the impact of Russian invasion in Ukraine.

Europe witnessed the highest number of asylum applicants a month last year since the migration crisis caused by the Syria war in 2015-16, EUAA executive director Nina Gregori said. “There have been three main drivers for these increasing numbers, namely the instrumentalisation of migrants by the Belarus regime, the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan last summer and of course the war in Ukraine.”

According to Nina Gregori, several international incidents contributed to such a large number of people applying for asylum. As a result, number of asylum applicants returned to the pre-Covid situation.

The report said number of applications was moderately stable in January-June 2021 while September-November 2021 witnessed a surge in the number of asylum applicants, especially from the sudden rise of applications from Afghanistan and Syria.

Syrians topped in seeking asylum with 117,000 applications, followed by Afghanistan (102,000), Iraq (30,000), Pakistan and Turkey (25,000 each) and Bangladesh (20,000), the report said.

According the report, the EU primarily considered 535,000 out of 648,000 asylum applicants. Some 118,000 people were granted asylum status and 68,000 others subsidiary protection. France received maximum 191,000 applications, followed by Spain (65,000) and Italy (53,000).

Seventy per cent of the applicants were male while half of all applicants are between 18 and 35 and 29 per cent are under 19 and two-third of unaccompanied teenage are aged between 16 and 17.

The report said asylum applications by Bangladeshis numbered more than 11,000 annually from 2016 to 2020. The number of asylum applicants was 15,000 in 2016, 18,865 in 2017, 13,740 in 2018, 15,845 in 2019, 11,570 in 2020 and 20,110 in 2021.

The number of applications by unaccompanied minors from Bangladesh (1,340) was the third highest with Afghanistan (12,600) and Syria (3,900) ranking atop.

Bangladesh was among the top five countries seeing the highest number of rejection of asylum applications.

Syria saw the highest 23,985 asylum applications being rejected, followed by Pakistan (20,875), Columbia (20,450), Nigeria (16,910) and Bangladesh (15,935).

Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in a statement welcomed developments on EU asylum reform and hoped further progress under the Czech Republic as the country prepares to take over the presidency of the European Union (EU) on 1 July.

*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna