EU countries are able to deal with the influx of asylum applicants thanks to the work of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). Find out more about how this EU agency operates.
In recent years the EU faced a sizeable increase in the number of asylum applications, which created significant challenges for some countries. However, they benefit from support from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
Every year it presents its findings on the situation of asylum seekers in the EU, plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. On Tuesday 21 November, the agency presented its 2016 annual report to Parliament's justice and home affairs committee.
However, do you know why the agency was created and how it helps EU countries? Read on for the answers.
How EASO makes a difference
Created in 2010, EASO is an EU agency which helps member states prepare for an influx of asylum applications and implement EU legislation regarding asylum. It also supports EU countries facing challenges due to a significant increase in applications.
The intense migrations flows since 2015 have made it necessary to revamp the Common European Asylum System. MEPs called for a reinforcement of EASO to make it the EU Agency for Asylum and provide with sufficient means to assist member states in crisis situations and monitor how national authorities apply relevant EU legislation.
Hungarian S&D member Péter Niedermüller, the lead MEP responsible for Parliament's position on an increased role for EASO, stressed the central idea driving the agency: “The main idea behind the European Asylum Agency is that we have to work together, that we need a European solution. Not a member states solution but one common European solution."
The downward trend: asylum applications in 2016
In 2016 1.3 million people sought asylum in the EU; 7% less than the year before. These included many young people: 32% of applicants were under 18.
Not everyone had their application approved. Out of 1,148,680 first-instance decisions, only 61% (698,750 to be exact) were positive. Syrians, Eritreans and Iraqis continued to top those granted asylum in the EU.
Although there were fewer asylum applications last year, the pressure on the EU's external borders remained high. More than 511,000 illegal border crossings were detected, including 382,000 new arrivals from Africa, the Middle East and Asia. However, after the EU-Turkey agreement entered into effect the number of irregular border crossings from Turkey dropped from 885,386 in 2015 to 182,586 in 2016; a reduction of nearly 80%.