Countries in turmoil fuelling rise in asylum applications, finds UN report

Countries in turmoil fuelling rise in asylum applications, finds UN report

Somali refugee girls attend primary school in Awbarre refugee camp, Ethiopia
The number of people seeking asylum in industrialized countries rose in 2008 for the second year in a row, partly due to an increase in applications by people from Afghanistan, Somalia and other countries experiencing turmoil or conflict, says a new United Nations report.

Released today by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the report contains provisional asylum statistics for 51 industrialized countries last year.

According to the agency, an asylum seeker is an individual who has sought international protection and whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined.

Last year, some 383,000 new asylum applications were submitted in the 51 countries, a 12 per cent increase over 2007, during which there were some 341,000 applications.

The report shows that while the number of Iraqi asylum seekers declined by 10 per cent in 2008, Iraqis continued to be the largest nationality seeking asylum in the industrialized world, with 40,500 applications submitted last year. This is followed by Somalia, Russia, Afghanistan and China.

The countries of origin showing a significant rise in applications included Afghanistan (up 85 per cent), Zimbabwe (up 82 per cent), Somalia (up 77 per cent), Nigeria (up 71 per cent) and Sri Lanka (up 24 per cent), all of which experienced unrest or conflict in 2008.

The United States was still the main country of destination for asylum-seekers of all nationalities in 2008, followed by Canada, France, Italy and the United Kingdom, the report adds.