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Asylum requests in EU sharply decline in 2018, new data shows

A young migrant near Calais, France, February 3, 2016.
A young migrant near Calais, France, February 3, 2016. -
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Asylum requests in the EU sharply declined in 2018 compared with previous years, new figures released by Eurostat have shown.

"In 2018, 580,800 first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the Member States of the European Union (EU), down by 11% compared with 2017," the EU statistical agency said.

That is half the number recorded 2015, at the peak of the civil war in Syria, when 1,256,600 first-time asylum applicants were registered.

Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis continued to be the top nationalities, together accounting for almost 30% of all first-time applicants, Eurostat said.

Germany last year remained the prime destination for asylum applicants, followed by France, Greece, Spain and Italy.

Rome, now with an anti-immigration party sharing office, recorded the biggest drop in applications last year.

Asylum has been an inflammatory political issue throughout the bloc in recent years, which has prompted EU-wide reform projects to be postponed until after the European elections in May this year.