The European Commission helps us to focus on the situation of migrants in the European Union.

On 1 January 2020, there were 447.3 million people living in the European Union. Of these, 23 million were third-country nationals (5.1% of the total EU population) and almost 37 million were people born outside the EU (8.3% of the EU population). The Commission specified that “the proportion of the foreign-born population in the EU is lower than in most high-income countries”.

Among third-country nationals residing in the EU with a valid residence permit at the end of 2020, most held permits issued for family (39%) or work (17%) reasons, followed by asylum (9%) and training (3%) and other reasons (32%).

In 2020, 8.6 million third-country nationals (4.6% of the total) were employed in the EU labor market out of a total of 189.1 million people aged 20-64. Moreover, in 2020, the employment rate of the working-age population was higher for EU citizens (73.3 %) than for non-EU citizens (57.6 %).

In 2020, non-EU nationals were over-represented in some specific economic sectors. For example, in accommodation and food service activities non-EU nationals were 11.4%, in administrative and support services 7.1%, in domestic work 6.5%, and in construction 8.6%. As regards occupations, non-EU nationals were overrepresented among cleaners and helpers (11.9%); personal care workers (9.0%); personal care workers in health services (5.1%); construction workers (5.8%); unskilled mining, construction, and transport workers (5.6%); unskilled restaurant workers (2.7%); unskilled agricultural and fishing workers (2.6%). Non-EU nationals were underrepresented in other economic sectors, including public administration and defense, compulsory social security (1.2%); education (3.7%); health and social work activities (7.6%); financial and insurance activities (1.1%).

In contrast, non-EU nationals were underrepresented among teaching professionals (2.5%); intermediate occupations in financial and administrative activities (2.5%); general clerks and office machine operators (1.4%); technical occupations in science and engineering (2.0%); specialists in business sciences and administration (2.1%); farmers and specialized agricultural workers (1.3%).

What was the situation of the refugees?

Based on UNHCR data, there were 26.4 million refugees and 48.0 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to conflict worldwide at the end of 2020. 10% of all refugees and only a small fraction of IDPs lived in the EU at the end of 2020. The percentage of refugees in the EU is 0.6% of its total population. While several countries around the world host large refugee populations, such as Lebanon, where the percentage of refugees is as high as 12.9%, Jordan (6.4%), Turkey (4.4%), Uganda (3.3%), and Sudan (2.4%). The first EU country on this list is Germany with 1.5%. “Most refugees from Africa and Asia do not arrive in Europe, but move to neighboring countries,” the Commission specified.

Some 2.25 million first residence permits were issued in the EU in 2020, compared to almost 3.0 million in 2019. The decrease was driven by travel restrictions introduced to curb the spread of Covid-19. The pandemic had a particularly strong negative impact on study permits, which fell from 14% in 2019 to 11% in 2020. In 2020, the first residence permits were issued for work (40%), family (28%), study (11%), and asylum (11%). The main nationalities of the first residence permits issued in the EU Member States in 2020 were Ukrainian (more than 600,000), Moroccan (123,000), Indian (79,000), Syrian (73,000), and Brazilian (72,000).

In 2020, asylum seekers came from almost 150 countries. In the EU, 472,000 applications were filed, of which 417,000 were first-time applications, a decrease of 32 % compared to 2019. An increasing share of applicants come from visa-free countries (26 % of first-time applicants in 2020) and enter the EU legally, mainly from Venezuela (7.3 % of all first-time applications); Colombia (7 %); Georgia (1.6 %); Peru (1.5 %); Honduras (1.4 %). Most first-time asylum applications were filed in Germany (102,500); Spain (86,400); France (81,700); Greece (37,900); Italy (21,300). Compared to the population, in 2020, the highest number of first asylum applications was filed in Cyprus (792 per 100 000 inhabitants); Malta (468); Greece (354). In 2020, 141 000 asylum seekers were under 18 years old: 10% of the cases (13 600) were unaccompanied minors, mostly from Afghanistan, Syria, and Pakistan.

In the first nine months of 2021, 427 thousand asylum applications were filed in the EU (of which 356 thousand were first-time applications), 23% more than in the same period of 2020, but 16% less than pre-Covid-19 levels (in the same period of 2019). In September, the number of applications exceeded 70 thousand, the highest monthly figure since 2016.

In 2020, EU countries took 521 thousand first instance asylum decisions. In 41% of cases, the decisions were positive: 106 thousand people received refugee status; 50 thousand received subsidiary protection status; 55 thousand received humanitarian status. Following an appeal, another 233,000 final decisions were adopted, including 22,000 decisions granting refugee status; 22,000 granting subsidiary protection status; 25,000 granting humanitarian status. Overall, in 2020, EU countries granted protection to about 280,000 asylum seekers. The largest groups of beneficiaries came from Syria (27% of all persons granted protection); Venezuela (17%); Afghanistan (15%).

In the first nine months of 2021, the rate of recognition of asylum applications decreased. 37% of 379,000 first instance decisions were positive, including 73,000 decisions granting refugee status; 47,000 granting subsidiary protection status; 20,000 granting humanitarian status.

At the end of 2020, 766,000 asylum applications were pending, 18% less than one year earlier (929,000). In 2021, the backlog continued to decrease, falling to 697 thousand at the end of July, the lowest level since mid-2015. By the end of September, however, the number of pending applications had risen to 730 thousand.

The EU asylum system continues to be undermined due to significant differences in recognition rates between the Member States. For example, in 2020, the recognition rate of Afghan nationals at first instance ranged from 1% in Bulgaria to 94% in Italy.

In 2020, Member States reported 94,600 outbound requests under the Dublin Regulation sent to the other Member States and other Dublin countries to take responsibility for examining an application for international protection. Of the 85,200 decisions on these requests, 50,100 (59%) were accepted and 12,500 outgoing transfers were carried out, representing 25% of the accepted requests.

In 2020, around 9,100 persons in need of international protection were resettled in the EU Member States from non-EU countries, 59% less than in 2019. Syrians were by far the most represented nationality, accounting for 55% of resettled persons.

Under joint EU resettlement programs, almost 90 000 people have found protection in the EU since 2015. Member States receive support from the EU budget for these resettlements.

In 2020, 70,200 third-country nationals were returned to a non-EU country. This corresponds to 18% of all return decisions issued during the year, down from 29% in 2019. Travel restrictions introduced as a result of the pandemic and the limited availability of flights made it difficult to carry out repatriations in 2020.

The main countries of origin of those repatriated to a non-EU country in 2020 were Albania (13.9% of all returns); Georgia (8.2%); Ukraine (7.9%).

Among nationalities with at least 5.000 return orders, the rate of return was particularly low for those from Côte d’Ivoire (2.0%); Mali (2.1%); Guinea (2.5%); Senegal (3.2%); Algeria (4.8%).

In the 17 Member States reporting this figure in 2020, 25% of the cases were assisted returns, meaning that the returnees received logistical, financial, and/or other material assistance. 75% were unassisted returns.

The percentage of assisted returns was particularly high in Hungary (90%); Luxembourg (66%); Austria (62%). The rate of return in 2021 remained low. In the 20 Member States which reported complete data, 21.100 returns to a third country were carried out in the first half of the year, representing 14% of the return orders issued by these countries in this period.

In 2020, more than 1,700 Member State consulates received 2.9 million short-stay visa applications from nationals of non-EU countries, 83% less than in 2019.

A total of 2.5 million Schengen visas were issued and 0.4 million were refused, equating to an EU-wide refusal rate of 13.6% (up from 9.9% in 2019). Most applications were made in Russia (654 thousand); Turkey (229 thousand); China (209 thousand); Morocco (180 thousand); and India (168 thousand). Most visa applications were processed by France (658,000); Germany (412,000); Spain (340,000); Italy (294,000); Czech Republic (177,000).

62% of all visas were issued for multiple entries. Short-stay visas cover travel to the 26 Schengen countries for a maximum period of 90 days within a period of 180 days.

Final snapshot

Finally, one snapshot that seems particularly significant to us is the one on 2019 rates. In that year, 2.7 million people immigrated to the EU while 1.2 million people emigrated from the EU. The total net immigration to the EU was 1.5 million people and this meant that the European population did not shrink. In fact, without migration, the European population would have shrunk by half a million in 2019, as 4.2 million children were born in the EU and 4.7 million people died.

According to provisional data, in 2020 the EU population would have shrunk by about 300,000 people (from 447.3 million on 1 January 2020 to 447 million on 1 January 2021), due to a combination of falling birth rates, rising death rates, and reduced net migration.


Source for the photo:

Giulia Torbidoni – Progetto Amif, TIA