According to estimates based on figures from the UNHCR, the number of people applying for asylum in the member countries of the European Union has increased slightly. There were some 400 thousand applications in EU countries in 2001, two percent more than in the previous year. In the Netherlands, on the other hand, the number of asylumseekers fell by a quarter.
Applications for asylum in the European Union
1990s strong increase followed by decrease
Following a strong increase in the beginning of the nineties to a level of around 700 thousand in 1992, the number of asylum applications in the countries of the European Union fell to under a quarter of a million in 1996. After 1996 the number started to rise again. In 2000 nearly 400 thousand people applied for asylum in one of the EU member countries.
The strong increase in the number of asylumseekers in the early nineties was caused by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the war in former Yugoslavia. In 1992 two-thirds of asylumseekers in the EU came from (Eastern) Europe. At the moment many come from Asian countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, but there are also relatively many from Turkey and former Yugoslavia.
2001: slight increase
According to calculations by Statistics Netherlands, the number of asylumseekers in the EU in 2001 was 2.0 percent higher than in 2000. The United Kingdom and Germany received the highest number of applications in 2001, 92 thousand and 88 thousand respectively. For Germany this was an increase of more than 12 percent on 2000, in the UK on the other hand it was a fall of six percent.
In the Netherlands, too, the number of applications for asylum fell after the introduction of a new immigration law on 1 April 2001. In 2001 33 thousand people applied for asylum 11 thousand fewer than in 2000. In France the number was 21 percent up on 2000, rising from 39 to 47 thousand.
Relatively speaking, on the basis of number of inhabitants Belgium received most applications in 2000 (4.2 per 1,000 population), followed by Ireland (2.9) and the Netherlands (2.8). South European countries like Portugal, Spain, Greece and Italy receive relatively few applications given the size of their populations. It should be borne in mind that any comparison of numbers of asylum applications should be undertaken with caution.
Asylum applications in EU countries per 1,000 of the population, 2000
Most asylumseekers in EU from Iraq and Afghanistan
Iraq and Afghanistan were the two largest origin countries of asylumseekers in 2001. In the first three quarters of 2001, 29 thousand Iraqis and 28 thousand Afghans applied for asylum in one of the countries of the EU. These figures do not yet show a noticeable increase as a consequences of the war in Afghanistan following the events of 11 September 2001. The countries where figures for November are available show no increase in the number of Afghan asylumseekers. Relatively many asylumseekers also come to Europe from former Yugoslavia and Turkey.
Han Nicolaas and Arno Sprangers