A record 1.3 million migrants applied for asylum in the 28 member states of the European Union, Norway and Switzerland in 2015 – nearly double the previous high water mark of roughly 700,000 that was set in 1992 after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency.
Today, Eastern European countries like Kosovo and Albania still contribute to the overall flow of asylum seekers into the EU, Norway and Switzerland, but about half of refugees in 2015 trace their origins to just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Conflicts, both fresh and long-standing, in each of these states have led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. Some have been displaced within their homelands; others have sought refuge in neighboring countries; and still others have made the often perilous journey to Europe (and elsewhere) to seek asylum.
Since 2012, Germany has been the primary destination country for asylum seekers in Europe, receiving 442,000 asylum applications in 2015 alone. Following Germany, Hungary (174,000 applications) and Sweden (156,000) received the highest number of asylum applications in 2015. Meanwhile, France (71,000) and the UK (39,000) received roughly the same number of applications in 2015 as in years just prior to the refugee surge in 2015.
Refugees did not disperse equally across Europe, with some countries taking in more asylum seekers than the European average. In 2015, the EU-28, Norway and Switzerland as a whole had 250 asylum applicants per 100,000 residents. By comparison, Hungary had 1,770 applicants per 100,000 people (the highest of any country) and Sweden had 1,600 applicants per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, Germany had 540 applicants per 100,000 people, still well above the total European rate. By contrast, France had only 110 applicants per 100,000 people in its total population in 2015 and the UK had only 60 asylum seekers per 100,000 people.
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