INTERNATIONAL

Number of EU asylum seekers doubled in 2015

About 1.26 million people applied for asylum in EU countries in 2015. Picture shows a displaced woman with her baby girl at the Greek-Macedonian border.— PHOTO: AFP

About 1.26 million people applied for asylum in EU countries in 2015. Picture shows a displaced woman with her baby girl at the Greek-Macedonian border.— PHOTO: AFP  

The number of people applying for asylum in the European Union (EU) more than doubled in 2015, reaching a record 1.26 million, according to the EU statistics agency.

Syrians accounted for almost a third of the total, with 362,775 people seeking shelter in Europe, followed by Afghans and Iraqis, Eurostat said. The data came as Brussels stepped up warnings to member states to take urgent action to resolve the refugee crisis by agreeing on plans to redistribute asylum seekers around Europe.

The European Commission also called on countries to lift all internal border controls by November, while stepping up protection of Europe’s external frontiers. The EU’s migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, echoed apocalyptic warnings from other European leaders when he argued the EU had to save its passport-free Schengen travel zone in order to preserve decades of European integration. Since September, eight countries have reintroduced border checks, aimed at preventing large numbers of refugees and migrants entering their countries.

The latest Brussels plan is based on the assumption that Turkey will take decisive steps to reduce the number of people making the perilous crossing across the Aegean Sea.

EU leaders are meeting the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutolu, at an emergency summit in Brussels on Monday, where they hope to get a promise of decisive action to reduce numbers, especially targeted at people who do not qualify for EU asylum. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2016

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