EU Saw 1.2M New Asylum-Seekers in 2016

(CN) – The European Union’s statistics office said Thursday that over 1.2 million refugees sought asylum for the first time in 2016 – just 50,000 less than the prior year – as the Syrian civil war shows no signs of abating.

Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis made up over half of the 1,204,300 first-time asylum applicants, Eurostat reported. Syrian refugees made up nearly 30 percent of the overall figure, the bulk of them applying in Germany.

In fact, Germany saw the majority of asylum applications – 6 in 10 applied there. But several member states saw first-time applications decline, particularly the Nordic states, Hungary and Belgium, which have all been reluctant to take in refugees since the crisis exploded in 2015.

The statistics office also reported a backlog of nearly a million pending asylum applications at the close of 2016. Member states are responsible for processing them, and Germany holds the bulk of the backlog due to the sheer number of applications it has and continues to receive, the office said.