Iraqis head the list of the growing number of people seeking asylum in industrialized countries again this year, just ahead of people searching for safety from war-torn Afghanistan and Somalia, according to a report published by the United Nations refugee agency today.
Some 185,000 asylum-seekers filed applications in the opening six months of 2009 across 38 European countries, the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea (ROK), representing a 10 per cent increase on the same period last year.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report showed that 13,200 claims came from Iraqis, making it the top country of origin for the fourth successive year, 12,000 came from Afghans and 11,000 from Somalis as security conditions continued to deteriorate in large parts of those countries.
The other main countries of origin were China, Serbia (including Kosovo), Russia, Nigeria, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, with Europe receiving 75 per cent of all asylum applications and the US the country that received the highest number, 23,700, or 13 per cent of all applications.
“These statistics show that ongoing violence and instability in some parts of the world force increasing numbers of people to flee and seek protection in safe countries,” said High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
“There is an acute need for countries to keep their asylum doors wide open to those who are in genuine need of international protection,” Mr. Guterres added.
France ranks as the second recipient nation with 10 per cent of all claims (19,400), followed by Canada (18,700), the United Kingdom (17,700) and Germany, ranked fifth (12,000).
The UNHCR report noted that the majority of claims by Iraqis were submitted in Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, as well as in neighbouring Turkey, while Afghan claims were mostly filed in the UK or Norway, and Somalis mainly applied for asylum in Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden.
The report’s authors said that second half of the year may witness a further increase in the number of claims, based on seasonal patterns over the past 10 years.