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Asylum applications up by almost half

Asylum applications in Switzerland were up more than 40 per cent for the first half of 2009 compared to the same time last year, the Federal Migration Office said.

In total 8,392 people sought asylum during the first six months of 2009. That is 41.2 per cent, or 2,447 applications, more than for the first half of 2008, office figures released on Monday show.

Most of the applications arrived in the first quarter of 2009, when 4,938 people sought asylum. About 14.5 per cent of the applications were approved during that time.

A stark slowdown in applications followed in the second quarter of 2009. Between April until June 3,454 people applied. The approval rate increased to 15.8 per cent for that period.

The Migration Office said the decrease in the second quarter of 2009 was largely due to poor weather in the Mediterranean that hindered large numbers of Somalis and Eritreans from fleeing north. Asylum seekers from those regions typically reach Europe by boats that leave from Libya to reach Italy, namely Lampedusa and Sicily.

Since December 12, 2008, Switzerland has requested 2,497 asylum cases be passed on to other European countries as part of the Dublin Accord. In return, Switzerland has accepted 169 asylum cases so far from other member states. and agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR