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Seeking Sanctuary

Which industrialized country received the most asylum seekers in 2014?

June 20, 2015

Which industrialized country received the most asylum seekers in 2014?

2014 was a particularly big year for global refugees. Outright civil war in countries such as Syria and Libya has spurred hundreds of thousands of civilians to make risky journeys to safer countries. We wonder: Which industrialized country received the most asylum seekers in 2014?

A. United States
B. Turkey
C. Sweden
D. Germany

A. United States is not correct.

In 2014, more than 121,000 people entered the U.S. asylum petition process, making it the second-highest recipient country for a second year in a row, according to UNHCR. 2014 brought an increase of nearly 37,000 applications over 2013.

From 2005 through 2012, the United States was the leading recipient of asylum petitions in the industrialized world.

In 2014, 866,000 people altogether applied for asylum across 44 industrialized nations. The United States received 14% of these applications.

Sixty percent of all applications went to the top five countries. After petitioners for asylum arrive in a country, they must be able to prove they would face persecution or be killed if they returned home.

This requirement differentiates them from people fleeing hardship or seeking better economic prospects.

Many of the more than 350,000 formally recognized refugees and asylum seekers in the United States are fleeing violence or political persecution in Africa, the Middle East or Latin America. In 2014, 42% of new applicants had fled gang and cartel violence in Mexico and Central America.

In the U.S. case, millions more are economic migrants. They often reside in the United States without legal recognition. Economic migrants are not considered refugees and are therefore not able to petition for asylum.

B. Turkey is not correct.

In 2014, Turkey became the third-highest recipient of asylum claims, with nearly 88,000 people filing new petitions. This represented a doubling of the 43,000 people who sought asylum in Turkey in 2013.

This surge was primarily a result of the brutal civil war in neighboring Syria. It escalated sharply in 2014, as the self-styled Islamic State captured much of northern Iraq and began moving on Kurdish communities along Turkey’s borders.

Even though Turkey’s government has publicly tried to remain welcoming to the civilians escaping the war, the events of 2014 began to test that resolve.

A century ago, there were also significant civilian population movements occurring in the region. Then, amid World War I, the Ottoman Empire was disintegrating under Allied invasion and rebellions by Armenian, Arab and Kurdish populations.

C. Sweden is not correct.

In 2014, the number of new asylum seekers in Sweden rose from 54,000 in 2013 to more than 75,000, making it the fourth-largest host country in the industrialized world.

2014 was Sweden’s biggest year for asylum claims since it received 84,000 applications in 1992 as Yugoslavia collapsed.

Much of the recent increase followed the Swedish government’s September 2013 decision to announce blanket asylum and permanent refugee status to any Syrian who wished to apply as a result of threats from the civil war.

This was an unprecedented move, not only within Europe, but globally. It has contributed to Sweden having more asylum seekers per capita than any other nation over the past five years.

The presence of more than 100,000 refugees in this small EU member country has become increasingly controversial. This likely helped propel the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party to become the third-largest in Sweden’s parliament.

In the final week of 2014, arsonists and vandals targeted three mosques in Sweden.

D. Germany is correct.

Germany received more than 173,000 new petitions for asylum in 2014, making it the leading recipient in the world in absolute numbers.

Germany’s asylum requests in 2014 were 58% higher than in 2013. The country has also accepted more than 200,000 refugees. In fact, Germany provides two-thirds of all admission and resettlement spots available in Europe.

However, among major asylum application recipients, Sweden received the highest number relative to its national population, at 78 per 10,000.

Germany stood at about 21 per 10,000, Turkey at about 12 per 10,000 and the United States at fewer than 4 applicants per 10,000.

Germany’s openness to refugees has, as in Sweden, sparked domestic protests at home.

In part, Germany’s high resettlement numbers are meant to ease pressure mainly on Greece and Italy — the EU countries directly bearing most of the brunt of desperate migrants landing on their Mediterranean coasts.

If the people escaping the conflicts of the Middle East and North Africa are not moved further northward into Europe’s interior, they would create an unsupportable crisis in the southern countries.

Italy’s asylum-seekers tally, for example, grew by 38,000 in 2014 – a greater increase than that seen in the United States – to a total of more than 63,000, the fifth-highest in the world.

Many of the applicants for asylum have survived a harrowing journey in smugglers’ overloaded and ramshackle boats across the Mediterranean from Syria or Libya. Untold thousands of others are believed to have perished.

Unfortunately, many of those who survive the journey lack clear documentation to prove their status as escapees of political threats.

This makes it difficult for authorities to make an appropriate determination on their asylum petitions.


In the US, economic migrants are not considered refugees and thus not able to petition for asylum.

In 2014, Turkey became the third-highest recipient of asylum claims.

The presence of more than 100,000 refugees in Sweden has become increasingly controversial.

Germany’s high resettlement numbers are meant to ease pressure on Greece and Italy.