BRUSSELS - Nearly 665,000 people applied for asylum in the European Union last year, almost as low a number as before the migration crisis of 2015, official figures showed Monday.
The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) recorded 664,480 applications for international protection in 2018, down for the third year running and 10 percent lower than in 2017.
EASO noted the figure was only slightly above the 662,165 applications lodged in 2014 and dramatically lower than the 1,393,920 in 2015.
The 28-nation bloc split politically four years ago over the surge in people fleeing civil war in Syria as well as violence and poverty in other parts of the Middle East and Africa.
The EU has since slashed arrivals of asylum seekers and economic migrants mainly through cooperation deals with Turkey and Libya, from where smugglers set sail for Europe.
Under international law, Europe is required to admit people fleeing war or political persecution but can deport those deemed to be simply seeking economic opportunities.
EASO said nine percent of the 2018 figure were repeat applications.
Germany, the bloc's biggest economy, again accounted for the lion's share of asylum applications last year, at 184,180. Syrians made up for one quarter of them.
The German figure is much lower than the 476,510 lodged in 2015 and 745,155 the following year.
As in previous years, just over two thirds of all applicants were male and a third female, EASO said. Almost a third of all applicants were minors.