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Silent migrant crisis: French asylum claims hit pre-pandemic records in 2022

Statistics from the French refugee office Ofpra have revealed that France received around 131,000 asylum requests in 2022, a number that approaches the record numbers seen before the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

The 131,000 asylum applications are just below the 132,000 applications registered in 2019, the year before the pandemic and the year that set a record for asylum applications in France. The 2022 numbers are also a 27% jump from those seen in 2021.

Afghan nationals were the most represented nationality in the 2022 asylum claims statistics with 17,000 applications for refugee status, a 37 per cent increase over the previous year, according to Ofpra, whose statistical press release set out the details.

Bangladeshi nationals made up the second largest number of asylum seekers at 8,600, followed by 8,500 Turkish nationals, 8,100 Georgian nationals and 5,900 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While many migrants enter France via the central Mediterranean route via Italy or the Balkan migrant route, an increasing number reach France first fly to South America.

The French overseas territory of French Guiana has seen a surge in migrants arriving from Arab countries after flying to Brazil and crossing the border by land and then applying for asylum in France, according to a report by broadcaster Franceinfo.

France’s neighboring Switzerland also has released new stats on illegal immigration this week, saying 52,000 illegal entries were detected in 2022, three times the number in 2021.

Swiss authorities said the vast majority of illegal immigration came from the country’s borders with Austria and Italy, with Moroccans making up the largest share of illegal immigrants, followed by Afghans.

The increase in asylum applications is only part of the silent migration crisis in Europe last year, which saw illegal entries into the European Union reach levels not seen since the height of the migrant crisis in 2015 and 2016, according to the European Union’s border agency Frontex.

Italy, which recorded over 100,000 illegal entries in 2022, continued to see a surge in illegal entries this year, reporting an increase in migrants entering its territory in the first 17 days compared to the same period in 2021 and 2022 combined.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email ctomlinson(at)