Data blog: Asylum rates in Europe climb as conflict rages in Syria

Number of people seeking protection in Ireland jumped by 53 per cent last year

 

The number of people seeking asylum in the EU is set to reach its highest point in almost two decades, with the largest number coming from war-torn Syria.

Latest figures show more than half a million (538,000) people sought refuge in the 12-month period up to September last year. That’s a rise of nearly a third from the he previous 12-month period.

Most recent figures show nearly 100,000 applicants were from Syria in the 12-month period leading to September 2014. They accounted for the single biggest group of applicants, followed by Afghans and Eritreans.

The numbers arriving to different countries vary considerably. Germany is the main destination and accounted for almost a third (32 per cent) of asylum seekers in the most recent 12-month period. In all, Germany, France, Sweden, Britain, Italy and Belgium received just under three quarters (74 per cent) of all applications.

In common with most EU countries, asylum applications in Ireland rose last year. Ireland recorded a 53 per cent increase, with numbers up from 946 in 2013 to 1,448 last year.

This is the first increase in ten years - though numbers are still low in EU terms. Ireland accounted for 0.3 per cent of the EU’s asylum seekers during the 12-month period up to September last year.

Most aslyum seekers were from Pakistan (20 per cent), followed by Nigeria (10 per cent), Albania and Bangladesh (both 7 per cent) and Zimbabwe (6 per cent).

The falling rates in Ireland over much of the past decade stand in contrast to much of the rest of the EU, where numbers have been steadily rising. This, say some observers, may have been influenced by factors such as the introduction of direct provision system of accommodation and restrictions to Irish citizenship for the children of non-Irish parents introduced in 2004.

The issue of which member states are accepting their fair share of asylum seekers is a growing issue, particularly among external border countries such as Greece or Italy.

But when the numbers are broken down by applicants per million of population, there are some surprising results.

The most recent Europe-wide figures available - for July to September 2014 - show Sweden had by far the highest number of applicants relative to its population size (2,925 per million inhabitants), followed by Denmark (1,260 per million) and Malta (970 per million).

Sweden stands out in the EU for its relatively generous safety net for asylum seekers, though government ministers there have expressed concern that the policy is straining the country's generous welfare system.

Ireland ranks towards the middle of the EU’s 28 member states (85 per million), behind countries such as France (225 per million) and the UK (140 per million), but ahead of Poland (50 per million) and Spain (30 per million).

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