Leaders from EU countries held a special meeting today with the government of Turkey as migrants and refugees continue to pour into Europe in unprecedented numbers.

New figures from the EU database Eurostat show that 1.2 million people claimed asylum in the 28 EU member states in 2015, more than double the number for the previous year.

Judging by comments left on previous FactChecks, the migration crisis is a topic that divides opinion like few others.

What do we know now about the record numbers of people seeking a better life in Europe?

Migrants who are waiting to cross the Greek-Macedonian stand by the border fence at a makeshift camp, near the village of Idomeni, Greece, March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Marko Djurica - RTS9C14

The analysis

More asylum seekers came to EU countries last year than any other year on record.

The biggest single group – 29 per cent – were Syrians. The next most numerous groups were Afghans and Iraqis. More than 50,000 people each from Kosovo and Albania also claimed asylum in the EU in 2015.

A large and increasing proportion of all asylum applicants were male – 72 per cent, or nearly three out of four, compared to 70 per cent last year.

People making the journey were most likely to be aged 18 to 34, although nearly a quarter of a million children aged under 14 also found themselves on the road.

In January the EU criminal intelligence agency Europol said at least 10,000 unaccompanied children had disappeared after arriving in Europe.

Where do the people go?

By far the largest number went to Germany, which received more than 440,000 people in 2015. This is more than 10 times the number of claimants who came to the UK: 38,370.

A migrant boy with a shirt that reads "Germany" plays with others in a childrens room at a refugee shelter which focuses on women and families, in Berlin, Germany March 3, 2016. Picture taken March 3. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos - RTS9ASB

The average number of new arrivals per EU member state was just under 45,000.

If we divide the number of asylum seekers by million inhabitants, Hungary took in the most people. Again, Britain – with 591 claimants per million people – was well below the EU average.

How many were genuine refugees?

The EU states between them made decisions about the asylum status of more than 570,000 individuals in 2015.

In just over half of all cases (51 per cent), the claimant was awarded refugee status or given some other kind of humanitarian protection.

Not all nationalities are treated equally when it comes to having their claims accepted.

In the final quarter of last year, 98 per cent of Syrians were accepted as genuine asylum seekers.

In the case of migrants from Albania, that number fell to just 2 per cent, meaning the vast majority of people were judged not to have real grounds for asylum.

And the countries which make the decisions have very different acceptance rates.

In the last quarter of 2015 the Netherlands rejected just 13 per cent of asylum claims, compared to 64 per cent in Britain.

It’s not clear that this means that some countries are more are less credulous or generous than others, since each state deals with a different mix of nationalities and cases.

How do people get into Europe?

The EU borders agency Frontex publishes figures for the numbers of people who illegally crossed into member states.

These numbers don’t measure the same thing as the asylum seeker stats, but they show a similar story: a massive spike in illegal entries in 2015.

This was mostly driven by enormous surges in people using the two most popular pathways into the EU – the Eastern Mediterranean route (from Turkey to the Greek islands) and the Western Balkan route (via Macedonia and Serbia into Hungary and Croatia).

Is this just a European problem?

Far from it. The UN refugee agency UNHCR has also published some new figures on the numbers of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

The numbers of Syrians in Turkey and Lebanon still dwarf the numbers who have travelled to Europe.

The comparison figure for Europe that we’ve used here is the number of Syrians who have claimed asylum in EU countries since the outbreak of the civil war in spring 2011.

In November last year the EU signed a deal with Turkey offering 3 billion euros in aid and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens in exchange for action to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.

We will need more up-to-date statistics to know whether the deal has had any effect.