A record 1.3 million migrants applied for asylum in the Europe in 2015 – nearly twice as many as the previous high point in 1992, around the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to new research by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center.
Since 1985, Europe has received about 11.6 million asylum applications, with last year's 1.3 million amounting to about one-tenth of all applications received during the past 30 years by the 28 members of the EU, Norway and Switzerland, Pew noted. It used data collected by Eurostat, the EU's statistical agency, to inform its research.
Europe has become a safe haven for thousands of people fleeing conflict, poverty and persecution in parts of Africa and the Middle East. While Pew noted that eastern European countries such as Kosovo and Albania still contribute to the flow of asylum seekers, about half of refugees in 2015 trace their origins to just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The diaspora and displacement of peoples seemed to peak in 2015 with Europe left largely unprepared and divided on how to deal with the influx of people.
The migrant crisis has also had a huge human cost. Thousands of men, women and children have lost their lives trying to reach the continent by land and sea, most often in un-seaworthy boats run by human traffickers.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday that in the first seven months of 2016, a total of 4,027 people had died crossing the sea to Europe, already surpassing the total of 3,771 deaths last year.
The migrant crisis has been met with a mixed response from around Europe: Some countries such as Germany have welcomed migrants while other governments, mainly in eastern Europe, have rejected plans for a quota-based system to relocate and re-home refugees. Many countries have closed borders to deter migrants passing through their countries to get to more prosperous northern Europe.
Given Europe's wildly differing stance towards migrants and the divergent economic prospects offered by each country, some countries have become more popular than others for asylum applications.
Germany (with 540 applications per 100,000 Germans) had more asylum seekers per capita than Europe as a whole (250 per 100,000), Pew's research showed, and was on par with other leading destinations such as Finland (590 per 100,000), Norway (590 per 100,000) and Switzerland (460 per 100,000).
By contrast, France (110 per 100,000) and the U.K. (60 per 100,000) had far fewer asylum seekers per capita.