The number of asylum seekers in the EU is increasing after several years of decline. From January to April, around 206,500 people applied for asylum in the European Union for the first time, 15 percent more than in the same period last year which saw 179,000 asylum applications, according to figures released by the EU asylum authority EASO.
The numbers mark a reversal in the trend which has seen several years of declining asylum application in Europe. In 2018, the number of asylum seekers in the EU had fallen by eleven percent. Since the beginning of the year, however, more and more asylum-seekers have been entering the Union via visa-free channels, especially from Latin America and the Western Balkans.
By the end of April, just over one in four asylum applications came from citizens of a country whose citizens can enter the EU Schengen zone without a visa, including Venezuela, Colombia, Albania and Georgia. In 2018, according to EU figures, it had risen to one fifth.
The number of visa-free asylum-seekers from crisis-stricken Venezuela in the first four months of 2019 increased by 121 percent year-on-year to 14,257 and from Colombia by 156 percent to 8097.
As a result, Venezuela was the main source of asylum seekers in the European Union in the period after Syria. The number of first-time asylum applications from Syria in the first four Months of the year was 20,392, a decline of eight percent. In third place was Afghanistan: According to the new data, 14,042 Afghans filed for asylum for the first time from January to April, 36 percent more than in the same period of the previous year.