The political and social upheaval in North Africa and the Middle East had little impact on asylum claims to rich countries _ something politicians in Europe had been particularly fearful of _ according to a U.N. report Tuesday.
The U.N. refugee agency said applications rose 17 percent during the first half of 2011, but most came from countries considered to be typical sources of asylum seekers, such as Afghanistan, where some 15,300 applicants originated.
China was the second biggest source of claims, with 11,700 people asking to be given refuge abroad. Third was Serbia and Kosovo, with 10,300 claims, followed by Iraq (10,100) and Iran (7,600).
"2011 has been a year of displacement crises unlike any other I have seen in my time as High Commissioner," The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said of the so-called 'Arab Spring' unrest that drove hundreds of thousands in Libya and Tunisia to flee their homes.
Guterres said most had fled to neighboring countries.
The U.N. refugee agency said it expects to see 420,000 asylum applications in rich countries for 2011, the highest number in eight years.
The top destinations during the first six months were the United States, which had 36,400 applications, followed by France (26,100) and Germany (20,100).
UNHCR noted that asylum application in Japan and South Korea more than doubled, to 1,300 compared to 600 in the first half of 2010.