Number of asylum seekers down by half since 2009

The number of people seeking asylum in Finland sank by 39 percent in the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2010, according to figures released by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR. Compared with the first half of 2009, the figure was down by 51 percent.

Kuva: YLE

On average in industrialised countries, the number rose by 17 percent this year, reflecting crises in North Africa, the Ivory Coast and Somalia.

The agency stressed that the figures covered only applicants for refugee status, many of whom are turned down and sent back to their countries of origin, and not those eventually granted asylum. They also do not include migrants, legal or illegal.

The US had far more applications than any other single industrialised country, followed by France and Germany.

Finland's western neighbour Sweden was fourth with 12,600 applicants between January and June. Finland had just over one tenth as many, 1375.