Number of people offered asylum in EU doubled in 2016

More than half of 700,000 offered asylum across European countries were Syrian

A child sits beside bedding supplied to new arrivals in Khazir refugee camp near Mosul, Iraq, on April 15th. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

The European Union granted asylum to more than twice as many people in 2016 than it did the previous year, with the vast majority coming from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The latest data from European statistics agency Eurostat shows a total of 710,400 people were offered asylum across the 28 EU member states last year, with Germany, Sweden, Italy and France offering the highest number of people protection.

More than half of those offered protection in Europe in 2016 were Syrian, followed by Iraqis, Afghans and Eritreans.

Some 405,600 Syrian asylum seekers were offered some form of protection status in the EU, with more than 70 per cent settling in Germany.


Germany offered 445,210 asylum seekers refuge, triple the number of people it welcomed in 2015, while Sweden offered refuge to 69,350 people, double the previous year. Italy offered asylum to 35,450 and France to 35,170.

More than half the people granted protection status in the EU last year were given refugee status, while 37 per cent were offered subsidiary protection and 8 per cent were allowed to stay for humanitarian reasons.

Subsidiary protection is offered when an asylum seeker does not qualify as a refugee but is at risk of suffering serious harm if he/she returns home.

Irish numbers

In Ireland, 150 Syrians were granted protection as well as 70 Afghans and 65 Zimbabweans. The State offered 645 people refugee status while 140 people were offered subsidiary protection. Another 365 refugees were resettled in the Irish State through the UNHCR.

Syrian asylum seekers fared best when it came to European recognition of their plea for protection. More than 98 per cent of Syrians who applied for protection were offered asylum in the first instance compared to 63 per cent of Iraqis, 52 per cent of Sudanese and 16 per cent of Bangladeshis.

Asylum seekers from the Balkans and south Asia were most likely to be refused asylum in the EU.

In Ireland, just 23 per cent of applicants for asylum received a positive response the first time they applied. In Germany, 69 per cent of applicants were offered positive news after their initial application.

More than 44,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Europe by crossing the Mediterranean so far this year, with 36,807 arriving in Italy and 4,900 arriving in Greece, according to the UN refugee agency. Most of those arriving in Greece are from Syria while asylum seekers travelling to Italy are more likely to come from African countries, including Nigeria, Guinea and Gambia.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast