Despite a drop in their numbers, Iraqis remained by far the top nationality seeking asylum in industrialized countries in the first half of 2008, according to UNHCR's latest asylum report released today (Friday).
During the first six months of 2008, a total of 19,500 asylum claims were lodged by Iraqis in the 44 industrialised countries included in the report. This constitutes an 18 percent decrease compared to the previous six months and a 10 percent decrease compared to the first half of 2007. In spite of this downward trend, Iraqis still accounted for 12 percent of all asylum applications lodged in the industrialised world.
Among other things, UNHCR's report shows that the number of asylum claims made by Iraqis (19,500), was higher than the combined number of asylum claims submitted by citizens of the Russian Federation (9,400) and China (8,700), the second and third most important source countries. Other important countries of origin of asylum seekers were Somalia (7,400), Pakistan and Afghanistan (6,300 each).
Sixty percent of all Iraqis claimed asylum in only four countries: Sweden (20 percent), Germany (18 percent), Turkey (14 percent) and the Netherlands (12 percent). One in five of all applications by Iraqis were submitted in Sweden (3,900), which has been the main destination country for Iraqi asylum seekers for some time. Arrivals in Sweden, however, have seen a recent drop following a change in Swedish decision-making on Iraqi asylum claims resulting in fewer Iraqis submitting applications. At the same time, applications by Iraqis have gone up in Germany, the Netherlands and Norway. Germany, for example, received 3,400 Iraqi asylum claims in the first half of 2008, the same level as in the preceding six months, but four times more than in the first half of 2007.
Overall, an estimated 165,100 asylum claims were submitted by all nationalities in the industrialised countries during the first half of 2008.
The United States remained the largest single recipient of new claims by asylum seekers of all nationalities during the first six months of 2008. An estimated 25,400 individuals submitted asylum applications in the USA, representing 15 percent of all applications lodged in the 44 industrialized countries covered by the report. Canada ranked second country of destination with 16,800 applications by asylum seekers of all nationalities during the first six months of 2008.
The number of asylum claims submitted in industrialised countries in 2007 rose by 9 per cent compared to 2006. This upward trend has continued during the first half of 2008 with data showing an increase of 3 percent compared to the first half of 2007. Assuming that current patterns remain unchanged during the next six months, UNHCR expects the number of asylum claims lodged during the whole of 2008 to reach up to 360,000, or 10 percent higher than in 2007.
Among the major source countries of asylum-seekers, significant increases were registered by asylum applicants from Mali, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Côte d'Ivoire, Georgia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.