Europe received record-breaking 1.3 million asylum applications in 2015

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Story highlights

  • Majority of the asylum seekers are male and young, research shows
  • Germany is the most desired destination in Europe

(CNN)Europe received a record-setting 1.3 million asylum applications in 2015, shattering the previous record in 1992 following the fall of the Soviet Union, according to the Pew Research Center.

Half of the asylum seekers came from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq as violence in those countries has displaced millions.
    About 73% of the asylum seekers in 2015 were males, according to Pew researchers who analyzed data from Eurostat, the European Union's statistical agency.
    Overall, 42% of the European asylum seekers last year were young men between the ages of 18 and 34.
    Many sought Germany as their primary destination, according to the research. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been criticized for her open door policy on refugees.
    In recent weeks, Germany has weathered a spate of attacks, three of which authorities say have been carried out by asylum seekers or refugees inspired by Islamist extremism. Merkel has stood firm on Germany's position of accepting nearly all asylum seekers found to be legitimate refugees, but the issue remains thorny and highly controversial.
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    The arrival of a record number of refugees has created backlash throughout several European nations.
    A Pew Research Center survey conducted this spring in 10 EU member states found high rates of dissatisfaction over the EU's handling of the refugee crisis. In Greece, 94% disapproved of EU's policies, followed by Swedes at 88% and Italians at 77%.
    About half of the survey participants indicated belief that the incoming refugees "increase the likelihood of terrorism in their country." They also cited beliefs that the refugees would take jobs and would become an economic burden by taking social benefits.
    Refugees risk treacherous journeys across the Mediterranean in flimsy boats. In May, the United Nations estimated that more than 2,500 migrants have drowned this year attempting to cross into Europe.