The fifteen countries making up the European Union until 1 May 2004 received 295 thousand requests for asylum in 2003. This is 83 thousand (just over 20 percent) fewer than in 2002. The fall was even more substantial in the Netherlands, where the number dropped by 30 percent. The ten new EU countries received 37 thousand applications for asylum in 2003, 5 thousand fewer than in 2002.
Asylum requests in the European Union
1999–2002: asylum requests in the EU stable
Following a sharp rise in the early nineties, the number of asylum requests in the EU-15 fell sharply again from 700 thousand in 1992 to under one quarter of a million in 1996.
More recently the number of asylum requests in the EU-15 has fluctuated between 377 thousand (2002) and 397 thousand (1999). However, there were large shifts between the various countries of the EU in these four years. In France, Austria, the United Kingdom and Sweden the number of requests increased, while Germany, Italy and the Netherlands received fewer requests.
Number of requests submitted in the EU, 2003
Sharp fall in 2003
The number of asylum requests decreased in nearly all the EU-15 countries. It fell relatively strongly in the United Kingdom and Austria. In some countries – Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands – the decrease was the continuation of a trend that had begun earlier. The decrease is connected with the more stringent asylum policies in various countries.
In spite of a substantial decrease, the United Kingdom received the highest number of asylum requests in 2003 (61 thousand), followed by France (51 thousand) and Germany (50 thousand). The ten new countries received 5 thousand asylum requests more in 2003 than in 2002. The increase was mainly in Cyprus and the Czech Republic.
Asylum requests in the EU, 2002–2003
In relative terms Austria had the largest number of asylum requests of the EU-15 in 2003 (4.0 per thousand inhabitants), followed by Sweden and Luxembourg, each with 3.5 asylumseekers per thousand inhabitants. In Portugal, Italy and Spain the number of asylumseekers was low compared with the size of the population. On average across the EU-15, nearly one asylum request was received per 1,000 inhabitants. In the ten new countries this was 0.5 on average, varying from almost 0 for Latvia to 6.2 in Cyprus.
Asylum requests submitted in EU countries, 2003
Most asylumseekers from Iraq
In 2003, Iraq was again the most common country of origin of asylumseekers in EU, although the number dropped from 40 thousand in 2002 to 20 thousand in 2003. The number of Iraqi asylumseekers in the United Kingdom fell by 10 thousand, Germany received 7 thousand fewer. In the Netherlands 2.5 thousand more Iraqis arrived in 2003.
Han Nicolaas and Arno Sprangers