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Refugees wait to get on onboard the rescue vessel after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea near Libya. [Marcus Drinkwater / Anadolu Agency]

Asylum applications in the European Union (EU) countries has increased by 13 per cent in 2019 compared to the year before, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) announced yesterday.

“This is the first time since 2015 that there have been more applications than the previous year despite reduced irregular migration towards the EU,” the EASO said in an official report, noting that more than 714,000 asylum applications were submitted in the EU countries in 2019, compared to 635,000 in 2018.

The Syrian refugees, the EASO pointed out, had ranked the first in the number of asylum seekers, with a total 72,000 applications, followed by 60,000 Afghans, and other 45,000 Venezuelans. It added that three per cent of the applications were from Vietnam, Afghan, and Eritrean children refugees without their families.

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The humanitarian organisation added that 33 per cent of the applications were accepted. “One in three decisions granted EU-regulated forms of protection,” EASO explained.

“Today’s figures highlight that while we remain well below the situation of a few years ago, we need to continue to be vigilant and strengthen our asylum practices,” EASO’s Executive Director, Nina Gregor, told reporters, calling for a “sustainable, fair and crisis-proof asylum system in the EU.”

Germany has become polarised since Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the country to refugees in 2015. Someone million people, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, have sought refuge in the country fuelling an upsurge in anti-immigrant sentiment and support for the far-right.