Syrians and Russians top asylum demands to EU

25.03.14 @ 09:29

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - Syrians fleeing war and Russians topped the list of those asking for asylum in the EU last year.

  • Around 90 percent of the asylum demands last year were made for the first time (Photo: FredomHouse)

Figures released on Monday (24 March) from the EU statistical office, Eurostat, reveal Syrians top the list of asylum demands with 50,000 applications, followed by 41,000 Russians and 26,000 Afghans.

The EU received a total of 435,000 asylum applications last year, 100,000 more compared to 2012. Most applications were issued for the first time.

Eurostat compared the numbers to those in 2008, noting that Syrian and Russian applications have increased significantly in the intervening years.

Around 5,000 Syrians asked for asylum in 2008, ten times fewer than in 2013. Russian applications have almost doubled since 2008.

The increase puts additional strain on the asylum systems of member states such as Bulgaria and Greece, which complain that they need more help from other countries.

EU asylum rules – the so-called Dublin regulation – require the countries where asylum seekers first enter the Union to take care of processing applications.

But EU home affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom in a speech in Sofia yesterday (24 March) said there is a misperception that the Dublin system sees most asylum applicants in the periphery of the EU.

"In fact, 70 percent of asylum cases are handled by five member states – Germany, France, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Belgium – none of which is at the external border of the EU," she noted.

Bulgaria's shared border with Turkey makes it an entry point for many Syrian refugees.

Some 8,000 Syrians arrived in Bulgaria last year and the country has run into criticism by pro-migrant rights groups for its lack of infrastructure to provide adequate care.

The UN refugee agency also intervened in early 2013, asking member states to suspend all transfers to Bulgaria because of its poor reception conditions and treatment of Syrian refugees.

Bulgaria has since decided to erect a 30km razor wire fence on the Turkish border between the towns of Lesovo and Kraynovo to prevent people from entering in the first place.