The number of asylum seekers claiming refuge in Europe more than doubled in 2015, latest figures reveal. The European Union’s (EU) own data agency, Eurostat, delivered the hard, statistical evidence that confirmed the unprecedented scale of the influx into the bloc.
Eurostat said a record total of 1,255,600 first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the 28 member states – more than double the number in 2014.
Syrians accounted for the highest number of claims, doubling compared with the previous year to reach 362,800.
The number of Afghans seeking refuge in the EU nearly quadrupled to 178,200 while applications by Iraqis increased seven-fold to 121,500.
Citizens of the three countries made up more than half of the total first-time applicants registered last year.
Germany has received by far the largest number of asylum seekers, with nearly half of the Syrians who applied for the first time registered in the country.
Finland saw the sharpest increase in first-time applicants, followed by Hungary (323%), Austria (233%) and Belgium (178%).
Eurostat also revealed that at the end of last year there were almost a million applications pending, with almost half being considered in Germany.
The numbers were released as more than 10,000 people remain stranded in northern Greece on the border with Macedonia, as EU countries rush to re-impose internal border controls previously removed under the Schengen agreement.
At a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris last night, French President Francois Hollande said migrants had to stay in neighbouring countries. The BBC reports he also vowed continued support for Turkey.
Speaking after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, European Council president Donald Tusk said that, for the first time, a “European consensus” was emerging over how to handle the migrant crisis.
The International Organization for Migration says 120,369 migrants have arrived in Greece from Turkey alone so far this year and at least 321 have died en route.
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