France, Germany top EU asylum table as requests rise to 260,000

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Over 260,000 asylum seekers registered in EU nations last year, with the highest number in France and the applicants coming notably from Afghanistan, Russia, Somalia and Iraq, official statistics showed Tuesday.

The total marked a rise of 20,000 from 2008.

Almost 230,000 claims were considered last year and 73 percent of those were rejected, the official statistics showed, though these cases included people who applied for asylum in previous years.

A total of 62,650 claims were accepted and allowed to settle in Europe, given either refugee status, allowed in for humanitarian reasons or afforded "subsidiary protection" for those who need protection but do not fulfil all the criteria for refugee status.

Of the total of asylum applicants 20,800, or eight percent, were from Afghanistan, where several EU nations have troops, according to the EU statistics agency Eurostat.

A further 20,000-plus came from Russia almost 6,000 of whom crossed the border into Poland to claim asylum.

Slightly fewer, 19,100 came from impoverished, strife-torn Somalia, most of whom lodged their pleas in the Netherlands or Sweden.

Of the 27 EU nations France recorded the biggest number of asylum applicants -- request for full refugee status -- with a total of 47,625, including large numbers from Russia, Sri Lanka and, above all, Kosovo, the former Serbian province whose independence is not recognised by all EU nations.

Germany received the second largest amount of asylum claims in Europe, with more than 31,000, over 7,000 of whom were Iraqis. However it topped the table of positive decisions on those aslum applications, allowing in 9,765 to France's 5,050.

Britain was third on the list with over 30,000, the largest group coming from former colony Zimbabwe, with the other two main groups from Afghanistan and Iran, where British troops are serving.

The asylum seeker numbers do not take into account the unknown number of illegal immigrants in Europe who do not seek formal asylum.

© 2010 AFP

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