GENEVA, March 21 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency on Friday issued a report saying there was a sharp rise in asylum claims in 44 industrialized countries over the course of last year, driven primarily by the crisis in Syria.
UNHCR’s «Asylum Trends 2013» report says 612,700 people applied for asylum in North America, Europe, East Asia and the Pacific last year – the highest total for any year since 2001.
Reflecting a shifting international dynamic, Afghanistan, which in the previous two years was the world’s principal country of origin for asylum-seekers, ranked third in terms of new claims behind Syria and the Russian Federation. Among the top-10 countries of origin, six are experiencing violence or conflict – Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan.
«There is clear evidence in these numbers of how the Syria crisis in particular is affecting countries and regions of the world far removed from the Middle East,» said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. «This makes it all the more important that refugees and the communities receiving them are being properly and robustly supported.»
For 2013, the biggest increase in asylum applicants by region was in the 38 countries of Europe which together received 484,600 claims – an increase of a third from 2012. Germany was the largest single recipient with 109,600 new asylum claims. France (60,100) and Sweden (54,300) were also major receivers.
Turkey, currently the biggest refugee-hosting country in Europe due to the Syria crisis (a registered Syrian refugee population of 640,889 as of March 18) also saw 44,800 asylum claims lodged last year, mainly from nationals of Iraq and Afghanistan. Italy received 27,800 claims and Greece 8,200.
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