Nearly 2,000 people sought asylum in Switzerland in July, the highest number of any month this year, the Federal Office for Refugees reported on Friday.
July's total was more than 50 per cent higher than the number of people who applied in 2000, and exceeded the number of applicants in the preceding month by 300.
The refugee office predicts that by the end of the year, the number of applicants in Switzerland could reach 20,000.
The largest group of asylum-seekers in Switzerland during July, 276, were from Yugoslavia, and the second largest, 238, were from Turkey.
Officials at the refugee office said that until now, the conflict in Macedonia had little impact in Switzerland. They said the situation in Macedonia differed with the conflicts in Kosovo and Bosnia, which had prompted a rise in the number of emigrants from those countries.
Trend in Europe¶
The rising number of refugees is apparently part of a trend throughout Europe. According to the Geneva-based United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of people who sought asylum in Europe between January and June rose four per cent in the first s ix months of last year.
Among the 196,400 who sought asylum in Europe during that period, the largest numbers applied to Germany and Britain - about 40,000 people requested asylum in each of those countries. France received about 22,500 applications, the refugee agency said.
Throughout Europe, the group with the largest number of asylum requests were Afghans. More than 24,000 of them sought asylum in Europe. Some 21,000 Iraqis, 14,000 Turks and 12,000 people from Yugoslavia requested asylum.
In the United States, 32,000 people applied for asylum over the same six-month period, UNHCR said.
In Switzerland, the process of seeking asylum is based on a 1999 law which follows principles of the Geneva Refugee Convention of 1951 and the European Convention of Human Rights.
The Swiss refugee office evaluates the applicants' situation based on conditions such as collective danger, before deciding whether to grant asylum.
When an application is denied, the applicant must leave Switzerland.
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