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EU's first-time asylum seekers more than double over spring - Eurostat

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Police officers walk past a damaged dinghy used by migrants as they patrol along the Slack dunes in Wimereux

(Reuters) - The number of first-time asylum seekers to the European Union has more than doubled over the spring months, according to a report by the bloc's statistics office on Friday.

Nearly 103,900 first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in EU countries between April and June of this year, according to Eurostat, up 115% compared to the same period of 2020.

Over the three months, Syrians represented around a fifth of first-time applicants - by far the largest group - followed by Afghans at 13% and Pakistanis at 4%.

Numbers of unaccompanied children applying for asylum also rose, up by nearly a fifth year-on-year to reach 4,240, with most minors applying for entry to Belgium, Austria and Germany.

The Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia, as well as the Czech Republic and Malta, did not record any applications from unaccompanied children.

It was Western Europe - Germany, France and Spain https://graphics.reuters.com/EUROPE-MIGRANTS/lgvdwkqnepo/chart.png - which recorded the largest numbers of first-time applicants, while Hungary - whose government strongly opposes Muslim migration into Europe - received only 10 applicants.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered electoral setbacks after opening Germany to Syrian refugees back in 2015, but in a sign of changing mood the country's mayors have now offered to take in more refugees.

Eurostat's report follows a contentious plan the EU's executive launched on Wednesday to overhaul broken migration rules and provide a better welcome for refugees fleeing the Middle East and Africa.

The proposals, intended to be put in place from 2023, put emphasis on sending back those who fail to win asylum.

According to Eurostat, the number of people re-applying for asylum following a previous decision fell 51% compared to the first three months of the year.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland in Gdansk; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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