The number of asylum seekers in Europe reaches the highest level in seven years

The number of asylum seekers in Europe has reached its highest level in seven years, with more than 1,1 million people seeking international protection in 2023.

Most of the asylum seekers were of Syrian nationality, the European Union announced on Wednesday, AP reports.

The surge in asylum seekers and other migrants is a divisive issue in many European states, pitting those who say more should be turned back at borders, and those who say the continent should continue to welcome people fleeing persecution.

The EU's asylum data is compiled from declarations by the bloc's 27 states, plus Norway and Switzerland.

According to the EU, 181,000 Syrians sought asylum last year, an increase of 38% from 2022, while asylum seekers from Afghanistan came in second at 114,000, although their numbers fell by 11% compared to last year. 2022.

The EU's agency for asylum seekers has announced that Syrians have the best chance of all nationalities to receive asylum.

The percentage of Palestinians who sought asylum last year also increased.

According to international refugee law, people have the right to seek asylum in cases where they have fled a conflict, because of a security threat, or because of persecution based on race, gender, sexuality or religion. In Europe, people who apply for asylum in search of a job or a better life are in most cases rejected.

Germany took in the largest number of asylum seekers last year, with 334,000 people, but Cyprus has faced pressure from migrants who have expressed a desire to live on the island. According to the agency, 12,000 people have applied for protection in Cyprus in 2023.

France has received 167,000 applications, Spain 162,000 and Italy 136,000.

People from Turkey, an EU candidate country, have also applied for asylum in large numbers, with 101,000 applications from Turkish citizens. This marks an increase of 82% compared to 2022.

According to the EU, around a fifth of asylum applications came from people who had entered Europe on visa-free travel, including 68,000 Venezuelans and 63,000 Colombians.