The new figures mark a sharp uptick in applications when compared to 2013, when 26,620 people applied for asylum in Italy, and reflect the broader trend of a growing number of people seeking protection in Europe.
A total of 626,000 people requested asylum across the EU’s 28 countries last year, with Italy accounting for 10.3 percent of the region’s applications in 2014.
While the figure may appear high for Italy, there were just 1.1 applications per thousand inhabitants last year. This falls just below the European average of 1.2 and far short of Sweden’s high ratio of 8.4.
Italy’s statistics also show that of more than 170,000 people who arrived by boat in the country last year, less than half requested permission to stay as refugees. As The Local reported earlier this year, Germany receives considerably more asylum applications than Italy.
Last year 202,700 people applied for asylum in Germany, an increase of 32 percent in a year and equivalent to 2.5 per thousands residents. Sweden came in second with 81,200 applicants, a 13 percent increase on 2013.
France had the fourth-highest number of asylum applications last year, behind Italy, although the 62,735 requests mark a five percent fall on the previous year.
— EU_Eurostat (@EU_Eurostat) March 20, 2015
Syrians fleeing the ongoing war in their country accounted for 122,790 of the applications registered in Europe last year. But they remain a tiny fraction of more than 3.9 million Syrians registered by the UN refugee agency, with the majority sheltering in countries bordering the conflict.
Within Italy the largest group of asylum-seekers last year hailed from Nigeria (10,135), where Boko Haram militants have led a violent campaign against citizens. The second-largest group (9,790) came from Mali, where French troops intervened in 2013 to combat Islamists taking over territory in the country.