Syrian crisis still brings thousands of refugees to European
A report released by the EASO revealed that, despite a more than 7 percent decline in the number of asylum applications in 2016 compared to the previous year, Syrian nationals still accounted for over a quarter of the 1.3 million applicants.
The war in Syria continues to be the main reason for thousands of asylum applications in Europe, the EU said on Wednesday.
A new report released by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) revealed that, despite a more than 7 percent decline in the number of asylum applications in 2016 compared to the previous year, Syrian nationals still accounted for over a quarter of the 1.3 million applicants.
Jadwiga Maczynska, EASO information and analysis coordinator, said in a news conference in Brussels that the EU-Turkey agreement reached last year had significantly reduced irregular migration flows from Turkey to Greece.
However, she added that migrants had adapted to borrow a different route from the African continent to Italy via the Mediterranean Sea.
A March 2016 deal between Turkey and the EU envisaged a "one-for-one" formula, under which failed asylum seekers in Europe would be returned to Turkey, while Syrian refugees would be resettled in EU states under a quota system.
A report released by the European Commission in April found the numbers promised in the deal have not been realized.
According to the commission's 11th Relocation and Resettlement Report, the total number of relocations stands at 16,340 since last March, far below the 160,000 goal.
The refugee deal was linked to the issue of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the EU.
Wednesday's report also revealed that the main host countries in 2016 were Germany, Italy, France, Greece and Austria. Most of the asylum seekers came from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria. About a third of asylum seekers were under the age of 18.
The report also indicated that decisions concerning asylum had significantly increased in 2016 as EU member states issued over a million rulings, an 84 percent increase compared to 2015. More than half of the decisions were positive.
However, as of the end of December 2016, some 1.1 million asylum seekers were still waiting for a ruling, and 56 percent of applications were pending for a period of more than six months.