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Iraqi crisis fuels rise in asylum-seekers in industrialized world – UN report

Iraqi crisis fuels rise in asylum-seekers in industrialized world – UN report

A five-year decline in asylum applications in developed countries turned around in 2007 largely because of Iraqis fleeing violence in their home country, according to statistics released today by the United Nations refugee agency.

“For the second year running, Iraqis topped the list of asylum-seekers in the world's industrialized countries,” according to a press release from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that summarizes the findings of the report entitled Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries 2007.

In total, some 338,000 new applications for refugee status were submitted in 43 industrialized countries last year, according to the report, which is based on information provided by governments.

That figure represents a 10 per cent rise compared to 2006, when 306,300 asylum claims were registered, the lowest number of applications in 20 years.

Between the two years, the number of Iraqis applying for asylum almost doubled, from 22,900 in 2006 to 45,200 last year. The other top countries of origin of applicants in 2007 were the Russian Federation (18,800), China (17,100), Serbia (15,400) and Pakistan (14,300). Other groups recording a significant rise in applications last year were Pakistanis (up 87 percent), Syrians (up 47 per cent) and Somalis (up 43 per cent).

In its release, UNHCR points out that Iraqi asylum-seekers in industrialized countries represented only one per cent of the estimated 4.5 million Iraqis uprooted by conflict.

More than 2.5 million people remain displaced within Iraq and another two million have fled to neighbouring countries such as Syria and Jordan, the agency said.