Asylum applications in the European Union have dropped to their lowest level in over a decade after countries went into lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Only 8,730 asylum applications were made in April according to the European Asylum Support Office(EASO), an 87 percent drop compared to January. The EASO said this was the lowest level registered since at least 2008.
Human rights advocates have said border closures and travel restrictions across the continent have worsened the challenges of people fleeing war and poverty.
Most applicants were from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey.
“In many cases, the drop in applications is due to member states and countries in Europe actually limiting access to their asylum systems, and not allowing individuals to lodge asylum applications,” said Catherine Woollard, Director of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), a pan-European alliance of NGOs defending the rights of displaced people.
“This was either due to the health emergency, or in some cases, countries used COVID to justify restrictions that they were already planning, or restrictions that were already in place,” she told Euronews.