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Photograph: EPA/CHRISTIAN BRUNA

More than 330,000 people were granted asylum in the European Union last year, the bloc's statistics agency said Wednesday, with Germany welcoming the most people, leading its numbers to triple.

In 2014, EU member states had granted asylum to just over 180,000 people. But the bloc has since been struggling with its biggest influx in migrants and asylum seekers in decades.

More than 1 million people reached its southern shores last year, most of them intent on moving on to Europe's wealthier north. Asylum procedures in the EU often are a lengthy process that can take several months.

Syrians, whose country has endured a civil war for more than five years, made up half of those who were granted refugee status or other protection in the 28-country EU in 2015, the Eurostat agency said. Eritreans and Iraqis were next in line, representing 8 and 7 per cent of cases.

Almost all Syrians who reached the EU had their applications for protection approved.

Germany, which has become the primary country of destination in this migration crisis, granted protection to 148,215 people last year - a 212-per-cent increase compared with 2014. More than 100,000 of them were Syrians, according to Eurostat.

Sweden came in second with protection granted to 34,470 people, followed by Italy with 29,630; France with 26,015; Britain with 17,920; Austria with 17,750; and the Netherlands with 17,045.

The EU countries that took in the least people - less than 100 - were Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Slovakia.

Member states have also been resettling refugees directly from outside the EU, for instance from refugee camps near Syria. More than 8,000 people were brought to the EU this way last year, with Britain, Sweden and Finland taking in the most, Eurostat said.

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