SYRIANS fleeing civil war and IS accounted for less than a third of the 1.25 million asylum- seekers across the UK and Europe last year, shock figures show.
First-time asylum claims in the EU more than doubled in 2015, with those filed in the UK hitting a ten-year high of 38,370, the Eurostat data agency said.
But Syrians made up just 29 per cent of the claims, fuelling fears the bulk of refugees pouring into the EU were economic migrants “tricking officials” and using the asylum route to seek a better life in the West.
Some 18,940 asylum applications EU-wide were from “stateless” refugees. Other applicants came originally from Australia, Norway — and even Barbados.
Germany saw a 155 per cent surge in applications to 440,000 after Angela Merkel threw open its borders last summer.
Finland recorded an 822 per cent rise to 32,150. Included among asylum applications in the EU were 135 from the US.
The figures came with 11,000 refugees and migrants blocked at the Greek-Macedonian border — as EU officials try desperately to halt the biggest movement of people since World War Two.
EU officials this year said 60 per cent of migrants and refugees coming to the bloc had no legitimate right to remain.
Alp Mehmet of Migration Watch told The Sun the figures would fuel concerns the majority of asylum claims are bogus.
He said: “Part of the reason so many are coming is because they believe they won’t be sent home. It’s only an incentive for even more to come this way.”
The stats came on a dramatic day as the migration crisis left the EU at breaking point.
In the UK, ex-Tory minister Christopher Chope demanded new laws to make it a criminal offence to be an illegal immigrant in Britain after July.
Meanwhile the Government gave Bulgaria 40 Land Rovers to patrol its border with Turkey.
French ministers set up 102 shelters to reduce the strain on Calais, while EU Council chief Donald Tusk said member states were finally beginning to co-operate to find a solution.
Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu said his country was ready to take back all migrants apprehended in its waters.
And the United Nations called for the 400,000 Syrian refugees camped in Turkey to be relocated around the world.
German Chancellor Merkel and French President Francois Hollande urged refugees and migrants not to travel to the EU. And they insisted their goal was to preserve the passport-free Schengen zone.
But Sweden’s PM Stefan Lofven said the EU may be at risk unless leaders tackled the crisis.
Some 1,255,600 first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection last year ac- ross the 28 EU member states.
Syrians accounted for 362,800, while the number of Afghans nearly quadrupled to 178,200 and applications from Iraqis leapt seven-fold to 121,500.
The most applications in the UK were lodged by Eritreans, whose country is riven by war.
Defence officials are drawing up plans to house migrants on UK military bases, it was confirmed yesterday. Insiders said the MoD had carried out a scoping exercise at the request of the Home Office, but stressed no decisions have been made.
It’s Iron Curtain 2
By HANNAH STUBBS
A NEW Iron Curtain stretches across Europe, blocking the paths of migrants attempting to cross from Greece to Macedonia.
Huge coils of razor wire form a giant fence across the Balkan landscape.
The Macedonian authorities maintain order and control in their homeland on one side.
On the other, thousands of desperate migrants have pitched tents right up to the barbed wire as they bid to cross Macedonia and reach havens such as Germany and Sweden.
Meanwhile a girl of 14 was allegedly raped by four Serbian migrants, aged 14 to 21, in Hamburg, Germany.
The attack is said to have been filmed by a girl of 15. She was in custody with two of the suspected rapists, who also face attempted murder charges.
Praying for a new home
SCORES of Muslim migrants gather in the Jungle for Friday prayers.
Around them, the French authorities continued to bulldoze hundreds of squalid shacks at the Calais camp.