GENEVA, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Poland has witnessed a sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers in the latter part of this year, mainly because of the country's expected entry into the European border-free zone, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday.
There have been fears that Poland's accession to the Schengen Zone will lead to stricter controls on asylum seekers, according to William Spindler, spokesperson of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Poland formally joined the Schengen Zone on Friday. Most of the asylum seekers, particularly Chechens and Ingush from Russia, had attempted to enter the country before this deadline, Spindler tolda news briefing in Geneva.
In addition, "some asylum seekers erroneously hoped that, once in Poland, they would be able to move freely throughout the Schengen Zone," he added.
UNHCR reported that in the first 11 months of this year, there were 4,931 new applications for asylum in Poland, of which 3,555 --roughly 70 percent -- were lodged after June.
While the monthly average of new applications during the first half of this year was 250, figures increased to 335 in July, reaching 1,148 in November.
The surge has led to overcrowding in Polish reception centers and forced the government to increase the number of facilities to accommodate all the new arrivals, the agency said.