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More Sought Asylum from Syria Last Year Than Anywhere Else, U.N. Says

For the first time in eight years, the United States was not the most common destination for people seeking refugee status.
Image: A Syrian refugee family from Aleppo
A Syrian refugee family from Aleppo, stay under a shelter on a rainy day on March 8, at Uskudar in Istanbul. More than 136,000 people have been killed in Syria's brutal war since March 2011, and millions more have fled their homes. BULENT KILIC / AFP - Getty Images

More people sought asylum in the industrialized world from Syria than from anywhere else last year, the United Nations said Friday — further evidence of the toll from three years of civil war.

The 56,400 Syrians who requested refugee status was more than double the previous year, the U.N. refugee agency said. A U.N. official said that 95 percent of the requests were approved.

The figures show “how the Syria crisis in particular is affecting countries and regions of the world far removed from the Middle East,” Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said in a statement.

Russian nationals, mostly believed to be from the disputed region of Chechnya, made up the second-biggest group of asylum-seekers with 39,800. Afghanistan, which topped the list for the previous two years, was third.

Germany was the most common destination for asylum-seekers among the 44 countries considered industrialized, the first time in eight years that the United States has not led that category.

In all, 88,400 people sought asylum in the United States, a quarter more than the year before, the U.N. agency said. The largest group seeking asylum in the United States was Chinese nationals.

Acceptance rates for people seeking asylum vary by country and by circumstance. People feeling conflict, as in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, are accepted more often.

The acceptance rate for Russians seeking asylum was considerably lower, 28 percent. Many of the Russians were trying to join family in Poland and Germany, not fleeing violence or persecution, Turk said.

Reuters contributed to this report.