BERLIN - Some of the world's poorest people in Africa and Asia are hardest hit by public corruption - forced to pay bribes for police protection, education and justice - according to a survey released yesterday.

Anticorruption watchdog Transparency International's 2007 Global Corruption Barometer showed that as a region, Africa suffered the most public corruption. In the African countries surveyed, 42 percent of people reported they had been asked to pay a bribe to obtain a service during the past 12 months.

The Asia-Pacific region was next with 22 percent; then Russia, Moldova and Ukraine with 21 percent; Latin America with 13 percent; Southeastern Europe with 12 percent; the European Union with 5 percent; and North America with 2 percent.

"Poor families are hit hardest by demands for bribes," the organization said in a report summary.

"This year's Global Corruption Barometer has made it clear that too often, people must part with their hard-earned money to pay for services that should be free," said organization chairwoman Huguette Labelle.

The survey of more than 63,199 people in 60 countries, compiled by polling agency Gallup, found that a majority believe corruption in general is on the rise, and they consider politics the most graft-ridden sector.

About 54 percent said they expect the level of corruption to increase in the next three years, 26 percent said it would stay the same, while 20 percent said it would fall.

The study found that police departments were the most corrupt, with one in four respondents around the world who had contact with police being asked to pay a bribe - and one in six paying it.

Police departments were followed by the judiciary, permit and registration services, the education system, and medical services.