Al Arabiya, 4 March 2016 - A record 1.25 million asylum seekers arrived in the European Union in 2015, more than double the figure from the previous year, official data showed on Friday as EU leaders prepared for a crucial summit with Turkey to try to stem the flow of refugees.
Syrians seeking asylum from the civil war were the single largest group at nearly 363,000 followed by 178,200 Afghans and 121,500 Iraqis, the Eurostat statistics agency said.
Some 159,000 or nearly half of all the Syrian applications were made in Germany while among the Afghans, 45,600 went to Hungary and another 41,200 sought refuge in Sweden.
Germany was the single largest recipient of asylum applications in 2015, at 441,800 or some 35 percent of the total, with Hungary taking 174,400 or 14 percent and Sweden 156,100 or 12 percent.
Separate figures from the International Organization for Migration released this week showed that another 130,000 migrants have made it to the EU across the Mediterranean alone so far this year, on top of one million last year.
Most cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece, or from North Africa to Italy.
In terms of asylum applications, however, Greece received only 11,370 in 2015, less than one percent of the total, the EU figures showed.
EU leaders hold a summit Monday with Turkey as part of efforts to halt the flood of migrants which has exposed deep differences within the 28-nation bloc over how to tackle the problem.
Border slowdowns and closures along the migrant route through Europe have just meant that people are now piling up in Greece, overwhelming the country’s resources, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a joint news conference with French President Francois Hollande in Paris, the Associated Press reported.
European Council President Donald Tusk said on Friday that he saw the first signs that EU states were overcoming their differences to start tackling the year-old migration crisis.
In a letter inviting EU leaders to a summit he will chair on Monday with the Turkish prime minister, Tusk wrote:
“Let me conclude on a prudent positive note. For the first time since the beginning of the migration crisis, I can see a European consensus emerging. It is a consensus around a comprehensive strategy that, if loyally implemented, can help stem the flows and tackle the crisis.”