Political turmoil in North Africa pushes up the number of asylum seekers in the west

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migrants crossing the Mediterranean

The number of asylum seekers in industrialized countries rose by 20 per cent in 2011 pushed by conflicts the Arab world and West Africa, according to a report by the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

A total of 441,000 asylum claims were recorded last year compared to 368,000 the previous year. 

The report which covers 44 countries in Europe, North America, Australia and parts of Asia, says the largest increase was in southern Europe which saw asylum applications almost double to 66,800.

UNHCR says most of these claims were from people who arrived by boat in Italy and Malta.

Tarek Abou Chabake from UNHCR says only the Nordic countries and Australia saw asylum seeker numbers declining with falls of up to 10 per cent.

"If you look at the top five countries they account for more than half of all asylum seekers among the 44 countries, and I am talking about the United States, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden. If those five countries have decreases it heavily impacts on the global number of asylum seekers. If those five countries have significant increases, then this has a big impact on the total numbers. In fact Italy recorded the highest  number ever on record in 2011, 34,000 applications. Germany and France went up, France for the fourth time in a row, Germany for the third time in a row, so figures are significantly up."

With over 35,700 applicants, Afghanistan was the country with the highest number of its nationals seeking asylum in the west followed by China and Iraq.

Duration 35″

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