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Asylum claims up from Arab nations

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The number of people seeking asylum in developed countries has risen 20 per cent in 2011, with the Arab Spring movements fueling a sharp rise in arrivals from Libya, Syria and Tunisia, the UN refugee agency has said.

The number of asylum applications in 44 countries reached 441,300 during the year, up from 368,000 recorded in 2010,  the agency said on Tuesday.

Tunisian asylum seeker numbers soared nine-fold from 900 in 2010 to 7,900 in 2011, while claims by Libyans rose five-fold to 3,800.

Syrian asylum applications were also up 68 per cent to 8,400 during the year.

Beyond the Arab world, claims from Ivory Coast, which plunged into bloody violence when former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in a November 2010 poll, were also up 180 per cent to 5,200 during the year.

"The large number of asylum claims clearly shows 2011 to have been a year of great difficulty for very many people," said Antonio Guterres, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees.

"We can be thankful only that throughout this, the international system of asylum has held firm," he added.

The United States continued to be the most popular destination for asylum seekers, accounting for one out of every six claims lodged in 2011.

France was the second most popular, recording 51,900 new applications during the year, with Ivorian claims in particular jumping from 500 to 1,700.

Germany had the third largest number of applications, with 45,700 claims lodged.


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