Resilience, Peace and Security

A record 1.3 million people sought asylum in Europe in 2015

A migrant walks towards Gevgelija in Macedonia after crossing Greece's border, Macedonia, August 22, 2015. Thousands of migrants stormed across Macedonia's border on Saturday, overwhelming security forces who threw stun grenades and lashed out with batons in an increasingly futile bid to stem their flow through the Balkans to western Europe. Some had spent days in the open with little or no access to food or water afterMacedonia on Thursday declared a state of emergency and sealed its borders to migrants, many of them refugees from war in Syria and other conflicts in the Middle East. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski - RTX1P820

Which countries have taken the most? Image: REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

Emma Luxton
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A record number of migrants applied for asylum in Europe last year. More than 1.3 million refugees applied in the member states of the EU, along with Norway and Switzerland.

This is the largest influx of people seeking refuge in the region in decades, according to the Pew Research Center, which analysed over 30 years of Eurostat data to assess the numbers involved.

The previous record was set in 1992 when almost 700,000 people sought asylum following the collapse of the Iron Curtain.

 Number of asylum seekers in Europe 1985-2015
Image: Pew Research Center

Conflict in the Middle East has been a big contributor to migration towards Europe, with half of the 1.3 million asylum seekers originating from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Germany has been the prime destination for many refugees, with the country receiving more than 440,000 asylum applications in 2015. But when you consider the number of applications relative to the country's population, it's actually Hungary that saw a much higher number, followed by Sweden and Austria. Germany comes sixth.

 Europe asylum applications per 100,000 population
Image: Pew Research Center

Which country took the fewest? The United Kingdom is at the bottom of the list, having received the lowest proportion of applications: only 60 for every 100,000 people. That's less than a 10th of Germany’s applications in 2015.



This year, 2016, has seen a drop in both the number of new arrivals in Europe and the number of asylum applications.

The number of migrants entering Greece has dropped particularly sharply. “This summer, an average of about a hundred migrants landed on Greece’s shores daily, down from the thousands who arrived every day last summer," said statisticians at the Pew Research Center.

But while numbers are dwindling, there are still over a million asylum seekers waiting for a decision on their application; a backlog that could take another year to clear.

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Resilience, Peace and SecurityGeographies in Depth
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