The United States has surpassed Germany as the largest recipient of new asylum applications worldwide, according to a new report this week from the United Nations Refugee Agency.
The big picture: This revelation comes as the polarizing immigration debate in the U.S. and Europe is getting more divisive. The European Union has been bitterly divided over the migration of refugees, while President Trump has said that the U.S. "will not be a refugee holding facility" under his administration.
What’s happening now:
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under a two-week deadline to reach a deal with other European countries to solve the mass migration crisis. This comes as Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is pushing for migrants registered as asylum-seekers to be turned away at the German border. This dynamic has thrust Merkel’s coalition to the verge of collapse and pitted nations against each other.
- EU leaders decided at an ad hoc summit in Brussels today — convened partly because of the domestic pressure on Merkel — that they plan to create centers in North Africa and the Balkans to screen migrants claiming asylum before they reach European shores.
- Meanwhile, Trump is facing his own migrant crisis. He caved to intense political pressure this week when he signed an executive order to end his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their families at the border.
- There was an overall reduction in asylum applications last year — to 1.9 million, after 2.2 million in 2016 and 2.5 million in 2015, according to the report.
- Of the 1.9 million, the U.S got 331,700, making it the largest recipient of new asylum applications. That doubled the 172,700 asylum claims from the previous two years combined.
- Yes, but: Only 65,600 asylum decisions were made during Trump’s first year in the White House — and there’s a backlog of 642,700 requests. 43% of the United States' overall requests are from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
- Meanwhile, applications plummeted by 73% in Germany between 2016 and 2017 — from 722,400 down to 198,300. This drop has been linked to the closure of a travel route through the Balkans in 2015.
- Italy received the third largest number of new asylum applications — 126,500 — in 2017, and Turkey came in fourth with 126,100.