23 Mar 2015
The number of asylum applicants to European Union member states increased by 44 percent in 2014, reaching 626,000. The data on asylum seekers, published in a report issued by Eurostat, the statistics office of the European Union, show that 191,000 more people applied for asylum in European countries in 2014 than in the previous year. Syrian refugees topped the chart, rising to 122,800 from 50,000 in 2013. More than 70,000 Syrians applied for refuge in Germany and Sweden alone. Afghani emigrants were the second-largest group with 41,300 asylum applicants seeking protection in the EU. Kosovo came in third, at 37,900, more than half of whom applied in Hungary. Meanwhile, the EU is planning measures to intercept refugees in the Mediterranean. As summer approaches, a large number of refugees are expected to arrive in Europe by sea, especially from the conflict-ridden countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Egypt and Tunisia have offered help to the EU by intercepting the refugees on the Mediterranean Sea and taking them to their own ports. Several human rights organizations, including the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have criticized EU countries for not taking in enough refugees.