Asylum numbers rise

THE NUMBER of people claiming asylum in Slovakia rose more than 6.5-fold in 2001 on the previous year.

According to statistics from the Slovak Migration Office 8,151 people claimed asylum in Slovakia, up from the 1,556 in 2000. More than half that number were refugees from Afghanistan.

Refugee status has been given to only 516 people since Slovakia became an independent state in 1993.

Slovakia has come under increasing pressure recently to improve security on its borders as the country approaches European Union membership.

The country has become a conduit for smugglers of illegal migrants from largely east Asian countries trying to reach the EU.

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