Asylum requests in developed countries rose in first half of year – UN

18 October 2011

Applications for asylum in developed countries rose by 17 per cent in the first six months of this year, with most of those seeking admission coming from countries with a history of population displacement, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

Some 198,300 asylum applications were lodged in the period between 1 January and 30 June, compared to 169,300 in the same period last year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its ‘Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries’ report for the first half of the year.

Requests for asylum normally peak during the second half of the year, and UNHCR projects that this year could see 420,000 applications, the largest total number of asylum-seekers trying to get legal admission into industrialized countries in eight years.

The survey found increases in asylum claims by Tunisians, Ivorians and Libyans – 4,600, 3,300 and 2,000 claims respectively – but their overall impact on the rate of application rates in industrialized countries has been limited.

Of the 44 countries surveyed, the main countries of origin for asylum seekers remained largely unchanged from previous surveys: Afghanistan (15,300 claims); China (11,700); Serbia [and Kosovo] (10,300); Iraq (10,100); and Iran (7,600).

This year “has been a year of displacement crises unlike any other I have seen in my time as High Commissioner,” said António Guterres, the head of UNHCR.

“Their impact on asylum claims in industrialized countries seems to have been lower so far than might have been expected, as most of those who fled went to neighbouring countries. Nonetheless we are grateful that the industrialized States have continued to respect the right of people to have their claims to asylum heard.”

By continent or region, Europe registered the highest number of claims with 73 per cent of all asylum applications in industrialized countries. Only Australasia saw a significant decline in applicants – 5,100 claims compared with 6,300 a year earlier.

By country, the United States received more applications (36,400) than any other industrialized country, followed by France (26,100), Germany (20,100), Sweden (12,600) and the United Kingdom (12,200). The Nordic region was the only European region to see a decline in asylum applications.

In North-East Asia, applications more than doubled – 1,300 claims were lodged in Japan and South Korea compared to 600 in the first half of 2010.

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