Germany remains the leader in asylum applications: 191,000 requests for protection were made in this country last year, the Malta-based EU asylum authority EUAA announced on Tuesday. France, Spain and Italy followed. In 2021, a total of 648,000 asylum applications were made in the EU – an increase of more than 30 percent. 118,000 people were granted refugee status and 64,000 protection with assistance.

The largest groups of applicants were people from war-torn Syria (117,000) and Afghanistan (102,000), where the chaos following the withdrawal of international troops and the Taliban takeover in August triggered a wave of refugees. Men accounted for 70 percent of the applications. Half of all applicants were between the ages of 18 and 35.

Particularly bad: According to the EUAA, around 23,600 applications – two thirds more than in 2020 – came from unaccompanied minors. This group is particularly vulnerable to falling into the hands of criminals. Human rights experts warn in particular against abuse through prostitution, but also against criminally organized organ harvesting.

The findings of the authority on the detention conditions of asylum applicants or rejected applicants are remarkable. Detention during or after an asylum procedure is explicitly provided for in EU law for a variety of reasons. Since February, three detention centers have been set up on the Greek islands of Samos, Leros and Kos with around 6,200 places.

However, the asylum authorities view the prison conditions in Malta, Greece, Italy, Lithuania and Poland “with growing concern”. For example, the minimum area for a detainee in Poland was temporarily reduced from four to two square meters. In Finland and Cyprus, the EU authority criticizes the lack of access to medical services, there were also surveillance cameras and an inadequate complaints system.

The EUAA also analyzed the first developments in the current year. Currently, the movement of refugees from Ukraine, which was attacked by Russia on February 24, is clearly having an impact in Europe. According to the latest figures, the EU authorities have so far granted temporary protection to more than 3.4 million refugees from Ukraine.

The status grants people a residence permit for one year, which gives them access to the labor market and education in EU countries without having to go through a lengthy procedure.