Syrian asylum applications up almost 200%Listen /
The number of Syrians seeking asylum in the industrialized part of the world shot up by 191% last year, compared with 2011, with 24,800 people applying for international protection. Overall, the number of asylum seekers rose by 8% last year, according to the latest report on Asylum Trends from the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
In 2012, 479,300 asylum claims were registered in 44 industrialized countries surveyed for the report. This is the highest annual total since 2003. The largest number of asylum seekers is still from Afghanistan, followed by Syria and then Serbia.
Volker Turk, Director of UNHCR's Division of International Protection, says that wars, both new and old, are driving more and more people to seek asylum. But he says they don't always get a good reception.
"We also know that in the industrialized world there is a lot of professed commitment to the institution of asylum but we have also seen an array of measures to deter arrivals which is one phenomenon we are grappling with and trying to resolve. Because for us the challenge is to ensure that the institution of asylum and the integrity of the institution of asylum is preserved."
The United States still remains top of the list for the number of asylum requests it receives. However, by region, the highest number of asylum applications were lodged last year in Europe, with 74% of the total, up 9% compared with 2011. Germany had the highest number of new applications at 64,500, up by 41%. France was next with 54,900 claims, up 5%, followed by Sweden which received 43,900 applications, an increase of 48%.
Nicki Chadwick, UN Radio, Geneva.