More than 1.3 million refugees applied for asylum in the European Union, Norway, and Switzerland last year, the Pew Research Center reports, nearly twice the previous record year of 1992, when 697,000 refugees sought asylum.
The dramatic spike in refugees pouring into Europe correlates with the exodus of hundreds of thousands of people from three war-torn countries: Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Migrants from these three predominantly Islamic states made up roughly half of all refugees in the EU, Norway, and Switzerland in 2015.
Frustration with the rising tide of migration has led to widespread criticism of the European Union’s handling of immigration and the refugee issue, with large majorities in EU-member states unsatisfied with the status quo.
According to a survey conducted by Pew earlier this year - and prior to the attacks in Brussels, Nice, and Munic - 67% of Germans disapproved of the EU’s handling of the migrant crisis – a notable figure considering the German government’s open-door policy on refugees.
In France and the UK 70% disapproved, while 71% in Poland, 72% in Hungary, and 75% in Spain were also unhappy with the EU over immigration.
The highest levels of satisfaction, however, were recorded in Sweden and Greece. A whopping 88% of Swedes said they were unhappy with the EU’s handling of the refugee issue, while 94% of Greeks responded similarly.
The high levels of dissatisfaction reflect a growing anxiety over the rapid escalation of immigration and the preponderance of young men, who make up the bulk of asylum seekers
Across the EU, 2015 marked a dramatic turning point in the migrant crisis.
Germany, the recipient of the largest number of migrants, accepted some 836,000 from the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011 through 2015. But more than half – 442,000 – came in 2015 alone.
In other countries, the increase was even more dramatic. In Hungary, 74% of all asylum seekers since 2011 arrived in 2015; in Austria 77% arrived in 2015, representing a more than three-fold increase over 2014.
Nor are the migrant asylum-seekers demographically balanced, with the overwhelming majority being fighting-age males.
A total of 73% of all asylum seekers in Europe in 2015 were men, including 71% of Syrians, 75% of Iraqis, and 80% of Afghans.
Among migrants from other countries, the figures were even more lopsided, with 95% of migrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh being men, and a whopping 97% of migrants from Gambia.