Malta had the fourth largest number of first-time asylum applications in 2017, when compared to the size of the population, according to Eurostat.

The highest number was recorded in Greece (5,295 per million population), ahead of Cyprus (5,235), Luxembourg (3,931) and Malta (3,502).

The lowest numbers were recorded in Slovakia (27), Poland (79), Portugal (98), the Czech Republic (108) and Estonia (138).

The number of applications in Malta has decreased by 7 per cent, from 1,735 in 2016 to 1,610 in 2017. This represents 0.2 per cent of all the 650,000 first time asylum seekers who applied for international protection in the member states of the European Union  in 2017.

This total was just over half the number recorded in 2016, when 1,206,500 first-time asylum applicants were registered, and is comparable to the level recorded in 2014, before the peaks of 2015 and 2016.

Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan continued to be the main citizenships of people seeking international protection in the EU Member States in 2017, together accounting for 30 per cent of all first-time applicants, Eurostat reported on Tuesday.

Three of every 10 – 198,300 - applied for asylum in Germany, followed by Italy (20%) and France (14%).

The largest group of asylum seekers came from Syria (16% of the total), a position it has held each year since 2013.

Syrians were the main asylum seekers in 14 EU member states.

Iraq was the second most common citizenship, with Afghanistan is third place.

Almost 1 million applications for international protection were pending at the end of the year, still under consideration by the national authorities.

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