GENEVA, March 21 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said in a report released Thursday that new and old conflicts led to an increase in asylum applications last year, with the sharpest rise in asylum requests from Syrians.
According to the report, entitled"Asylum Trends 2012, Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries," 479,300 asylum claims were registered across the 44 industrialized countries in 2012, up 8 percent over the year of 2011.
The number of newly registered asylum-seekers last year is the second highest level in the past decade, only next to the record of 505,000 asylum claims in 2003, said the report.
Afghanistan continued to be the largest source country with some 36,600 claims. As a result of the continuous conflict, Syria was ranked the second, up from the 15th place in 2011, with 24,800 asylum applications submitted in 2012, an increase of 191 percent over the previous year, according to the report.
The report also pointed out that in most cases people seeking refuge from conflict choose to remain in countries neighboring their own in hope of being able to return home.
For example, although the number of Syrian asylum claims in industrialized countries was 24,800, there are now more than 1.1 million registered Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.
The United States, with 83,400 claims, was the single largest recipient of new asylum claims, followed by Germany, France, Sweden and Britain. The top five recipients accounted for 57 percent of all asylum claims received in the countries included in the report, it said.
Europe was the major recipient of asylum applications in the past year with 38 European countries having received 355,500 claims, an increase of 9 percent compared to that of 2011.