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Leap in asylum seeker numbers

The number of asylum seekers in Switzerland went up by 53 per cent in 2008, creating a "challenge" for the government, the Federal Migration Office has said.

There were 16,606 asylum applications filed last year, according to government statistics published on Tuesday, and a 42 per cent leap in requests in the last quarter.

Migration Office spokesman Jonas Montani said Switzerland did not have enough accommodation to meet the rise, and cantons were having to make emergency arrangements.

As in 2007, most applications – 17.2 per cent - were by people of Eritrean origin, followed by Somalis.

Requests from Nigerians rose by 202 per cent and those from Iraqis went up by 50 per cent. The number of Sri Lankan applications rose by 98 per cent, following the armed conflict in the country at the start of the year.

The federal office said the overall rise was mainly due to changes in migration routes of people travelling from sub-Saharan Africa. The number of people entering the Mediterranean via Libya and Sicily has doubled in the past year.

It said the increase since July had meant 12,656 applications were still unresolved by the end of 2008, 103 per cent more than in the previous year.

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