BRUSSELS (AP) — Increasing numbers of people applying for asylum in the European Union are arriving from countries with visa-free travel agreements with the bloc, notably from Latin America, rather than entering without permission, the EU’s asylum agency said Wednesday.
More than 714,000 people applied for asylum or some form of international protection in Europe last year, up 13% from 2018, the European Asylum Support Office, or EASO, said in its latest report on asylum trends in 2019.
“Most of the increase is accounted for by the large number of applications lodged by applicants who are exempt of visa requirements when entering the Schengen Area,” the agency said, referring to the passport free travel area that includes 22 EU states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The visa-free applicants were mostly from Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador and Honduras. Venezuelans lodged 45,000 applications, more than twice as many as in 2018.
EU countries often grant asylum to people fleeing their home countries in fear for their lives or of persecution there. People who come in search of jobs and better living conditions are routinely denied permission to stay.