Ukrainian asylum applications tick up in EU

File photo. A Ukrainian soldier stands guard as paratroopers board a plane during their departure to the Eastern-Ukrainian conflict zone at the military airbase not far of Zhytomyr city, about 130 km from capital Kyiv, Ukraine, 6 December 2018. [Sergei Dolzhenko/EPA/EFE]

Applications in the European Union for asylum from Ukrainians have jumped in recent months, the EU agency involved in the claims said Tuesday (20 April), although it did not say why.

In February there were 971 applications, an increase of 72% compared to the month before, making Ukrainians “one of the top 10 nationalities of applicants,” the European Asylum Support Office said.

The increase came amid soaring tensions between Russia and Ukraine and was all the more notable given that overall asylum claims in the EU have slumped during the coronavirus pandemic.

EURACTIV has been told that more and more Ukrainians fear conscription, and been thrown in an outright war.

In 2020, requests in EU member states and affiliated countries such as Switzerland and Norway plummeted to their lowest level in eight years, to a total of 461,300.

In February 2021 the total number of applications, 38,300, was less than two-thirds the level of a year earlier, EASO said.

Applications from non-accompanied minors, however, remained around the same level as before the pandemic, at 1,300.

France is the country receiving the highest number of Ukrainian asylum applications, an EASO spokeswoman said.

She added that Eurostat figures showed that in November, France received 59% of the 765 Ukrainian requests made across the bloc and associated countries that month.

“EASO does not have information on the reason for the sudden increase in applications by Ukrainians,” she told AFP.

Ukraine war

Eurostat data showed that, in 2020, Ukrainians were the top nationality for asylum applications in the Czech Republic, and were among the top five in Poland and Liechtenstein.

Ukraine has been locked in a seven-year conflict with Moscow-backed insurgents in its east, following Russia’s annexation of its Crimean peninsula. Tensions have risen in recent weeks with Russia mobilising tens of thousands of troops to the border with Ukraine.

Gross domestic product halved in the year following the start of Ukraine’s conflict. While it has climbed since, it still languishes below the pre-war level, indicating economic hardship for Ukrainians.

In February, just 78 Ukrainians were given refugee or subsidiary protected status in the EU, while another 483 asylum applications were rejected.

EASO said that Syrians, Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis and Nigerians make up the top nationalities requesting asylum in the European Union and associated countries.

It added that, overall, one in three of all the asylum applications resulted in some form of protection status being given, whether as a refugee or another permit.

To qualify for asylum, a migrant needs to show a well-founded fear of persecution or harm because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group or their political opinions.

Asylum requests made in a quest for better economic opportunities are typically rejected as they are not covered by those criteria.

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