Continuing a downward trend in asylum numbers, fewer people have applied for asylum in industrialized countries in the first three months of this year compared to the last quarter and over same period in 2004, said the United Nations refugee agency today.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released the first-quarter asylum statistics revealing that in 36 industrialized countries the total of 81,900 asylum applications between January and March 2005 was down 13 per cent compared to the last quarter of 2004, and 17 per cent compared to the first three months of last year.
In Europe as a whole, the number fell by 15 per cent compared to the last quarter of 2004, and by 18 per cent compared to the first quarter last year. In the 24 European Union (EU) countries included in the report, the percentage decreases were 14 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. In North America, the drop was a relatively modest 7 per cent compared to the last quarter of last year, and 11 per cent down on the first quarter of 2004.
But the fall is even more striking when looked at over a two-year period: compared to the first quarter of 2003, the EU is down 31 per cent, Europe as a whole is down 34 per cent and North America is down 40 per cent. Australia and New Zealand - which between them receive less than one per cent of the total – are down 44 per cent compared to the first three months of 2003.
Asylum seekers from the Russian Federation – most of whom tend to be Chechens – have dropped substantially, down 42 per cent compared to the previous quarter, their lowest quarterly total in almost three years, UNHCR said.
As a result, Russians are now the second highest group with 4,867 asylum seekers, and asylum seekers from Serbia and Montenegro (who include Kosovars) have taken over as the top group during the first quarter of 2005, although they too have fallen by 13 per cent compared to the same period last year. Most other major groups have fallen, with the exception of Georgians, who are up 16 per cent, and Haitians, up 19 per cent.