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Photograph: Photo by geralt, used under CC0

The number of people who filed first-time asylum applications in the European Union increased by 6 per cent in the second quarter of this year, new data released on Thursday showed, with Germany remaining their preferred destination.

Europe had struggled last year with a migration surge that brought more than 1 million people to its shores. It managed to disrupt a key sea route from Turkey to Greece in March by negotiating a deal with Ankara, but migrants have also used other routes to reach Europe.

First-time asylum applications in the 28-country EU reached a total of 305,715 between April and June, up from 287,085 in the first three months of this year, the EU statistics agency Eurostat said Thursday.

The largest share of applicants continued to come from Syria, making up 30 per cent of the total and with a vast majority of them - 80 per cent - registering in Germany.

Afghans and Iraqis came in second and third place at 16 and 11 per cent of first-time applications. Most of them also sought refuge in Germany.

Overall, the country recorded 60 per cent of the first-time applications in the second quarter, Eurostat said. Italy was in second place with 9 per cent, followed by France with 6 per cent, Hungary with 5 per cent and Greece with 4 per cent.

Compared with the first quarter of this year, applications in Greece - where many migrants remained stuck after the EU-Turkey deal - increased by 132 per cent, Eurostat said. Hungary registered an increase of 118 per cent despite its tough policies against migrants.

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