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UN Refugee Agency says global asylum applications rose in 2011

The United Nations Refugee Agency says that the number of people seeking asylum in industrialized nations jumped 20 percent last year when compared to 2010. The agency issued its report in late March. The report covers applications for asylum in 44 industrialized nations across the globe.

The U.N. agency says that in 2011, slightly more than 440,000 people sought asylum-roughly one of every six asylum applications were made in the United States.

The biggest rise in applications for asylum globally came from people from Afghanistan. The nation has been in the top two source countries for asylum seekers for the past three straight years. Last year, Afghanis seeking asylum applied to 42 of the 44 industrialized nations, and the number of applications among people from Afghanistan rose by roughly one-third over the previous year.

Unrest in the Middle East and portions of Africa has led to an increase in asylum seekers originating from those areas. The Office of the U.N. Commissioner for Refugees says that the increase in refugees from the Middle East and Africa is a reflection that 2011 was a year of "great difficulty" for many in the area, according to the Voice of America.

The overall 20 percent jump in global asylum applications represents a significant increase in terms of recent years. However, a data analyst with the UNHCR says that last year's jump in applications for asylum was much lower than the numbers recorded a decade ago. The analyst says, "the numbers of 2011 are only about two-thirds of what we have seen 10 or 15 years ago when 500,000 or 600,000 people applied for asylum annually among those 44 countries."

Source: Voice of America, "UNHCR: Asylum Claims to Industrialized Countries Up 20 Percent," Selah Hennessy, March 27, 2012

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