The year of 2013 witnessed a sharp rise in asylum applications in industrialized countries, mainly due to the Syria crisis, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday.
A total of 612,700 asylum claims were registered across the 44 industrialized countries in 2013, up 28 percent over 2012, the UN refugee agency said in a report.
The report noted that after this third consecutive annual increase, the 2013 total ranked the highest since 2001.
As a result of the ongoing conflict, Syria overtook Afghanistan, for the very first time, to become the largest source country followed by Russia and Afghanistan, with 56,400 Syrians applying for asylum in these industrialized countries last year.
The UN refugee agency pointed out that six out of the top ten origin countries were currently experiencing violence or conflict, namely Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan.
Take Syria as an example, the 2013 figure covered by the report more than doubled that of 2012 and six times more than that in 2011, ranking as the highest number recorded by a single group among the industrialized countries since 1999.
"There is clear evidence in these numbers of how the Syria crisis in particular is affecting countries and regions of the world far removed from the Middle East," said UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres.
The number of refugee-seekers in Syria's neighboring countries further manifested the dire results caused by the three-year-old war. UN statistics showed that more than 2.56 million Syrians have registered or were waiting to register as refugees in neighboring countries as the displaced inside Syria passed 6.5 million.
As far as recipient countries concerned, the report said that Germany, with 109,600 applications, was for the first time since 1999 the largest single recipient of new asylum claims, and the United States dropped to second position with around 88,400 asylum claims.
Followed by France, Sweden and Turkey, all these top five accounted for nearly six out of ten new asylum claims received in the countries included in the report.
By region, Europe was the major recipient of asylum applications in 2013, with 38 countries in the region receiving 484,600 claims, an increase of 32 percent compared to 2012.