Graphics: Europe's asylum seekers

Syria's brutal civil war is pushing a new wave of migrants towards Europe. Their numbers have surged, but many asylum seekers in Europe have also fled the conflicts and turmoil in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa.

European governments are struggling to co-ordinate their response to the influx. Large movements of migrants from country to country quickly fuel suspicions that some politicians are trying to shift the burden onto their neighbours.

Greece and Italy - major entry points for migrants - say there must be more burden-sharing in the EU, especially as they have been hit hard by the eurozone crisis. Migrants continue to board overcrowded, rickety boats, risking their lives. The recent deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean highlighted their plight.

Asylum is granted to those who say they are fleeing persecution and who can convince the authorities that they would face harm or even death if they were to be sent back.

Origins of asylum seekers in EU

Nearly a quarter of asylum applications in the EU are handled by Germany. France is the second biggest destination for asylum seekers. But often English-speaking migrants head for the UK, which is home to large communities from Pakistan, Somalia and Middle Eastern countries.

Among the asylum seekers from Russia there are many Chechens, whose homeland was devastated by war between separatist rebels and Russian troops.

The asylum seekers from Serbia include many Roma and ethnic Albanians, who complain of discrimination in Serbia.

Asylum seekers' destinations in EU

In the developed world the US is the top destination for asylum seekers, but Germany and France are second and third. Sweden, with a much smaller population, is fourth, ahead of the UK.

But it is important to remember that developing countries host more than 80% of the world's refugees. People fleeing conflict or persecution often end up in a neighbouring country - but many do not want to settle there permanently. Pakistan, with 1.6 million refugees, ranks highest for sheltering refugees. The vast majority of Afghan refugees are in Pakistan and Iran.

Most Syrian refugees are in neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and most have not made formal asylum claims.

In such cases of massive displacement - Somalia is a similar case - those fleeing are automatically recognised as refugees, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) told the BBC.

The refugees register and their stay is regulated, so they are protected from being sent back, the UNHCR's Andrej Mahecic said. It is not individual asylum processing as happens in Europe. Many countries do not have a national asylum system.

World destinations for asylum seekers - graphic

Globally Europe is the main place where asylum claims are processed. For many asylum seekers Europe is easier to reach overland or by boat, especially those fleeing conflicts in the Middle East or Africa. And people traffickers already have well-established smuggling routes to Europe.

The figures illustrate why immigration has become such a hot topic in Europe.

Asylum seekers' destinations globally - graphic

Globally Afghanistan ranks first in terms of asylum seekers' country of origin. But the war in Syria has pushed that country into second place. China and Pakistan are also major countries of origin. Both countries have anti-government minorities and dissidents who allege discrimination or persecution.

Origins of asylum seekers - global graph

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