Iraqis leading the way in growing numbers of asylum-seekers, says UN agency

17 October 2008
Asylum seekers gathered outside  South African government office processing applications

The number of people seeking asylum around the world is on the rise with Iraqis being by far the top nationality in search of safety, according to a report published by the United Nations refugee agency today.

Some 165,000 applications were submitted to the 44 industrialized countries included in the report in the first six months of this year, and Iraqis made up 12 per cent of all asylum claims lodged with 19,500 applications and some 20 per cent of those petitioning Sweden.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report showed that the number of claims made by Iraqis was higher than the combined number of asylum claims submitted by Russia (9,400) and China (8,700), the second and third highest nationalities seeking asylum.

While the top three countries of origin for asylum-seekers saw either a downward or stable trend, the number of Somali claims lodged rose significantly, reflecting a deteriorating situation in the conflict-wracked Horn of Africa country. More than 7,400 Somalis were registered between January and June this year, compared to 5,000 for the same period last year.

Pakistan and Afghanistan also had large numbers of citizens seek asylum in the first half of 2008, with 6,300 claims each. For Afghanistan this represents a 22 per cent increase on the corresponding period for last year and a 42 per cent rise on 2006.

Although the total number of Iraqi asylum-seekers dropped by 18 per cent from the previous six months and 10 per cent from the first half of 2007, the overall upward trend of asylum claims continues. Data showed an increase of 9 per cent in 2007 compared to 2006 and 3 per cent from the first half of 2007.

According to the asylum trends report significant increases were registered by applicants from Mali, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Côte d'Ivoire, Georgia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Assuming that current patterns remain unchanged, UNHCR say the number of asylum claims lodged during the whole of this year could reach 360,000, or 10 percent more than 2007.

The report also noted that an estimated 25,400 people submitted asylum claims to the United States, the largest recipient of new claims, representing 15 per cent of all applications lodged in the first six months of 2008. Canada ranked second as a country of destination with 16,800 applications, or around 10 per cent of all asylum claims lodged.


♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.