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First-time asylum applicants in Cyprus almost 10 times higher than EU average in second quarter

File photo of Pournara reception centre

Cyprus saw the highest number of first-time asylum applicants relative to the country’s population during the second quarter of this year, according to Eurostat, almost ten times the EU average, and double the number received by the country with the second-highest rate.

Though applications for international protection by first-time asylum seekers in EU member states dropped during the second quarter of 2020 by 69 per cent compared with the numbers recorded during the equivalent time period last year, which saw 143,700 applications, Cyprus recorded the highest rate of registered first-time applicants relative to its population.

According to the latest data from Eurostat, “the highest rate of registered first-time applicants during the second quarter of 2020 was observed in Cyprus (989 first-time applicants per million population).”  The figure translates into 880 such applications.

Slovenia followed with 441 first-time applicants per million population and Greece with 376. The lowest rates were observed in Hungary and Poland with two applicants per million population each and Estonia with three applicants per million population.

“In total in the EU as a whole, there were 104 first-time asylum applicants per million population in the second quarter of 2020,” the Eurostat report said.

The Cypriot government has recently introduced a series of measures to tackle the numbers of asylum seekers. Among other things it introduced measures to significantly reduce the time it takes to process applications, since, in the past it would take years, thus ‘encouraging’ that way people who wanted to remain on the island file for asylum.

Eurostat said that the sharp drop in asylum applications in the second quarter of 2020, results from the Covid-19 emergency measures applied by the member states starting from March 2020.

With 7,700 first-time applicants between April and June 2020, Syrians remained the largest group of persons seeking international protection in the EU member states followed by Afghans (4,200 first-time applicants) and Venezuelans (3,000). Citizens of these countries accounted for almost one-third (32 per cent) of all first-time asylum applicants in the second quarter of 2020. In total some 46, 500 first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the member states during this period.

According to Eurostat, in terms of numbers, Germany received 14,200 first-time applicants, or 31 per cent of all first-time applicants in the EU, followed by France (8,900) and Spain (7,200).

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