EU Asylum Applications Double in Three Months as Pressure Builds

  • Hungary, With 231% increase, matches Germany for applications
  • Almost a third of asylum seekers come from war-ravaged Syria

European Union countries recorded a 94 percent increase in first-time asylum seekers in the third quarter, as the influx of refugees from global conflict continued to put pressure on policy makers.

Applications in the three months through September stood at 413,815 compared with 213,200 the previous quarter, EU statistics agency Eurostat said on Thursday. While Germany remained the most popular destination with 108,305 registrations, that number was almost matched by Hungary -- a country an eighth of the size -- recording a 231 percent surge.

The region’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, sparked by unrest across the Middle East and Africa and exacerbated by war in Syria, has led to EU governments closing borders, bickering over burden sharing and questions about the sustainability of the bloc’s ID-free travel area.

Figures released from Germany on Monday showed registered asylum seekers in the bloc’s largest country rising to about 965,000 by the end of November, exceeding the government’s full-year forecast of 800,000. “This development has been a huge challenge to the federal government and communities,” Germany Foreign Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters in Berlin on Monday.

Almost a third of the EU asylum seekers came from Syria, as violence continued to ravage the Middle Eastern nation. Eurostat said the number of Syrians and Iraqis seeking asylum more than tripled in the third quarter to 137,935 and 44,425 respectively, while the number of Afghans doubled to 56,670.

The 108,085 asylum seekers in Hungary represents by far the largest number per capita --- at nearly 11,000 per million inhabitants, followed by Sweden, whose 43,520 asylum seekers, a 197 percent increase on the second quarter, represent 4,500 per million inhabitants.

Hungary tightened legislation earlier this year, allowing authorities to turn down more claims. The European Commission threatened the Hungarian government on Thursday with a lawsuit, signaling that the law was in breach of EU rules.

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