The number of people who filed first-time asylum applications in the European Union dropped to 287,085 in the first three months of this year, new data released on Thursday showed, with Germany remaining the preferred destination for migrants.
Europe had struggled last year with a migration surge that brought more than 1 million people to its shores. But it managed to disrupt a key sea route from Turkey to Greece in March by negotiating a migration-stemming deal with Ankara.
First-time asylum applications in the EU decreased in the first quarter, dropping 33 per cent when compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, the EU statistics agency Eurostat said Thursday.
Almost 40 per cent of the applicants were from Syria, while Iraq and Afghanistan each made up 12 per cent.
More than 60 per cent of the first-time applications were recorded in Germany, Eurostat said. Italy was in second place with 8 per cent, followed by France with 6 per cent, Austria with 5 per cent and Britain with 4 per cent.
While crossings from Turkey to Greece have decreased significantly, migrant crossings over the Central Mediterranean to Italy have picked up again after a winter lull.
The number of migrants arriving in Italy more than doubled in May, reaching around 19,000, the EU border agency Frontex said on Wednesday, warning of a rise in departures from Egypt. Most crossings had so far been attempted from Libya.
Despite the May increase, the arrivals in Italy during the first five months of this year remain on par with the same period last year.
Frontex said there is no indication of migrants shifting from Turkey to the Central Mediterranean route, instead attributing the rise in crossings there to "the increasing number of migrants from West Africa and the Horn of Africa."