Asylum applications in the European Union continued to rise in the first half of 2023. Exacerbating the strain on limited hosting capacities and intensifying the political debate across many member nations.
The European Union Agency for Asylum reported a 28% increase in asylum applications in the first half of this year when compared to the same period last year. This surge follows a substantial 53% increase in applications throughout the entirety of 2022. The agency issued a statement warning that, based on current trends, asylum applications could surpass one million by the end of 2023 within the region of approximately 460 million people.
These figures are in addition to the approximately four million people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, who are being hosted under temporary protection provisions.
Syrians Lead Asylum Seekers
Among the asylum seekers, Syrians fleeing unrest and violence in their home country formed the largest group in the first half of the year, totalling 67,000 individuals, representing a 47% increase from the previous year.
The surge in applications is straining hosting facilities and leading to a 34% rise in pending cases awaiting a ruling. Based on initial decisions, 41% of applicants are granted refugee status or other forms of protection. However, the fate of those rejected but remaining within the bloc poses an increasingly challenging political issue.
Deepening Divisions in Europe
The growing number of asylum seekers and migrants has become a divisive issue in numerous European countries. It has sparked debates between those advocating stricter border controls and those advocating continued openness and compassion for those fleeing persecution.
Recent developments underscore this division. The Belgian government recently announced that it would no longer provide shelter for single men seeking asylum, citing insufficient hosting capacity and prioritizing families, women, and children. This decision drew condemnation from the 46-nation Council of Europe, Europe’s foremost human rights organization, as well as aid groups, who accused Belgium of reneging on its international commitments.
Last month, the issue of managing migration played a pivotal role in the fall of the Dutch government, revealing deep ideological divisions within the nation. The European Union itself remains divided on this issue, with no comprehensive solution reached since the influx of over one million migrants into Europe in 2015, triggering one of the bloc’s most significant crises.