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15th Dec 2018

EU asylum applications double post-Soviet peak

  • Hungary had the highest number of asylum applicants as a proportion of its population. (Photo: Michael Gubi)

The EU registered double the number of asylum seekers last year than its previous peak figure, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Some 1.3 million people applied for asylum last year in the 28 EU states along with Norway and Switzerland, US-based Pew Research centre said in a report out on Tuesday (2 August).

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"Since 1985, Europe received about 11.6 million asylum applications – meaning that last year’s 1.3 million amounted to about one-tenth of all applications received during the past 30 years by current EU countries, Norway and Switzerland," notes the report.

The 1.3 million figure also almost doubled the applications registered in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1992, when roughly 700,000 applied.

Roughly four-in-ten asylum seekers in Europe in 2015 were young men between 18 and 34 years old. Those coming from The Gambia, Pakistan and Bangladesh were almost exclusively male.

Most asylum seekers were trying to reach preferred destinations such as Germany and Sweden.

Sweden, for instance, received more applications than both France and the UK combined.

But Germany remained the top destination overall with 442,000 applications lodged last year.

Hungary (174,000) and Sweden (156,000) were next most popular, and Hungary also had the highest number of applicants as a proportion of its population.

The country registered 1,770 applications for every 100,000 residents.

Hungary's right-wing government launched an anti-immigration campaign in the lead up to an October referendum that will ask citizens to reject or approve the EU's scheme to distribute asylum seekers.

Prime minister Viktor Orban recently described people fleeing war and persecution to seek protection in the EU as "a poison”.

Meanwhile, dozens of migrants waiting at Serbia's border with Hungary launched a hunger strike around the same time Orban made the comments.

The strike, which involved mostly Afghans and Pakistanis, has since reportedly ended with nobody allowed to enter Hungary.

Sweden received 1,600 applicants out of 100,000 residents, Germany 540, France averaged 160, and the UK just 60.

The EU average, including Norway and Switzerland, is around 250 applications per 100,000 residents.

The vast majority of Syrians applied for asylum in just five EU states: Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands.

After Syria, the largest source countries for asylum inflows in the EU are Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Albania and Nigeria.

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