Somalia and Iraq were at the top of the 2008 list of countries with the most people seeking asylum elsewhere, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
REUTERS - An estimated 383,000 asylum seekers lodged applications to stay in the West in 2008, a 12 percent rise on a year ago as more Somalis and Afghans fled fighting in their homelands, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
Iraqi and other refugees are seeking permanent shelter in a wider variety of industrialised countries, possibly as traditional countries of asylum including Sweden have adopted stricter policies, it said.
Some 40,500 Iraqis sought asylum last year to remain at the top of the list for the third straight year, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
Iraqi applications were actually down 10 percent, but were filed further afield, in 37 Western nations. “This suggests that people seeking international protection are searching for it in a larger number of countries,” the UNHCR said.
Somalis were the second largest group, filing 21,800 applications in industrialised countries led by Italy, a 77 percent increase from the previous year and “a reflection of the deteriorating situation in the country”, it said.
Russian nationals followed at 20,500, with neighbouring Poland a prime destination, according to the agency.
Afghans filed 18,500 requests, almost double the figure from a year ago, which UNHCR attributed to the intensifying conflict. Britain, Turkey and Greece were their main destinations.
Chinese nationals lodged 17,400 applications, a relatively stable number, with more than half of them submitted in the United States, according to the Geneva-based agency.
Nigerians (13,700), Pakistanis (13,300), Eritreans (12,300), Mexicans (12,200) and Iranians (10,800) were other major groups of asylum-seekers in 2008, it said.
Overall, Europe received close to 290,000 of the claims, a 13 percent rise on the previous year, it said. The 27-member European Union accounted for 238,000 requests, a 6 percent rise. The 15 “old” EU members saw the greatest increases, while the newer, mainly East European members, showed a 15 percent drop.
In North America, an estimated 86,000 new asylum applications were submitted, a 9 percent rise on the year.
The United States registered 49,000 applications, a 3 percent drop from 2007, whereas Canada saw a dramatic 30 percent rise, mainly linked to higher numbers of Mexican and Haitian asylum-seekers, according to the UNHCR.
Australia received 4,700 applications last year, a 19 percent rise, while Japan and South Korea together registered a “record high” of almost 2,000 new applications in 2008, mainly people from Myanmar.
Date created : 2009-03-25