The U.N. refugee agency says the number of people seeking asylum in industrialized nations has risen by nearly a quarter, most of increase driven by wars in Iraq and Syria.
The UNHCR says in a report released Friday that some 330,700 people sought refugee status during the first six months of this year, a 24-percent increase from the same period in 2013.
The agency says if the trend continues, the 2014 total could reach 700,000, the highest total for industrialized countries in 20 years; a level not seen since the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Asylum trends, 2013 and first half of 2014, UNHCR report
"The international community needs to prepare their populations for the reality that, in the absence of solutions to conflict, more and more people are going to need refuge and care in the coming months and years," UNHCR Chief Antonio Guterres said.
The U.N. report says more than two-thirds of the asylum claims were made in just six countries: Germany, the United States, France, Sweden, Turkey and Italy. The report says there was a declining number of asylum claims to central Europe, in particular Hungary and Poland, as well as Australia.
Overall, the most claims were from Syrians, where the number doubled to 48,400 from the year before. Iraq produced 21,300 asylum applications followed by Afghanistan with 19,300 and Eritrea with 18,900.
Material for this report came from AP, AFP, Reuters.