BRUSSELS, 4th March, 2016 (WAM) – In 2015, 1. 255, 600 first time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the Member States of the European Union (EU), a number more than double that of the previous year.

The number of Syrians seeking international protection has doubled in 2015 compared with the previous year to reach 362 800, while the number of Afghans has almost quadrupled to 178 200 and that of Iraqis has multiplied by 7 to 121 500. They represent the three main citizenships of first time asylum applicants in the EU Member States in 2015, accounting for more than half of all first time applicants, according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

In 2015, the highest number of first time applicants was registered in Germany (with 441, 800 first time applicants, or 35% of all first time applicants in the EU Member States), followed by Hungary (174, 400, or 14%), Sweden (156 100, or 12%), Austria (85, 500, or 7%), Italy (83, 200, or 7%) and France (70, 600, or 6%). Compared with the previous year, the number of first time asylum applicants in 2015 increased the most in Finland (+822%), ahead of Hungary (+323%), Austria (+233%), Belgium (+178%), Spain (+167%) and Germany (+155%).

Almost 1 out of 3 first time asylum seekers originates from Syria. Syria (29% of the total number of first time applicants) was again in 2015 the main country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States. Of the 362, 800 Syrians who applied for the first time for asylum in the EU in 2015, almost half were registered in Germany (158, 700). In total, Syrians represented the main citizenship of asylum seekers in twelve EU Member States.

Afghanistan (14% of the total number of first time applicants) remained the second main country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States in 2015. Of the 178, 200 Afghans seeking asylum protection for the first time in the EU Member States in 2015, nearly half applied in two Member States: Hungary (45, 600) and Sweden (41, 200).

With 121, 500 first time applicants (or 10% of the EU total) in 2015, Iraq was the third country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States. Six in ten applied in one of the following three Members States: Germany (29, 800), Finland (20, 400) and Sweden (20, 200).

At the end of 2015, 922, 800 applications for international protection in the EU Member States were still under consideration by the responsible national authority. At the end of 2014, there were about half as many (489, 300).

With 424, 800 pending applications at the end of 2015 (or 46% of the EU total), Germany had the largest share in the EU, ahead of Sweden (156, 700, or 17%) and Italy (60, 200, or 7%).

WAM/tfaham