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UNHCR Says Applications To West Jump 20 Percent

The United Nations says the number of people seeking asylum in Western countries rose 20 percent last year, with high numbers of people fleeing conflicts in Libya, Syria, and Ivory Coast.

The United Nations' refugee agency, the UNHCR, said that Afghans topped the overall list of asylum seekers to the world's richest countries in 2011, followed by Chinese and Iraqis.

More than 35,700 people from war-torn Afghanistan sought asylum last year, the agency said -- a one-third increase in comparison to 2010.

The number of Pakistanis and Syrians applying for asylum also jumped significantly.

The UNHCR said asylum applications to 44 industrialized countries rose 20 percent in 2011 to nearly 450,000 -- up from 370,000 in 2010.

This is the highest number of asylum applications since 2003.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters