EU: Iraqis largest group of asylum seekers

At the same time, UNHCR is now criticizing Sweden's policy of deporting rejected Iraqi and Afghani asylum seekers back to 'safe' places in their home country. (The Local, Sydsvenskan)

Five years after the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, the number of Iraqis seeking asylum in 2007 nearly doubled over the previous year. Many of them seek refuge in the European Union.

A five-year downward trend in the overall number of people seeking asylum in industrialized countries was reversed last year, according to a report released Tuesday, March 18, by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nearly half of asylum-seekers from around the world found new homes in the European Union last year, with the majority of them coming from Iraq.

"The overall downward trend in asylum applications was offset last year by a large increase in the number of asylum seekers from Iraq," the UNHCR said in a statement.

In 2007, 338,000 total asylum applications were filed in 43 industrialized countries -- 10 percent more than in 2006, when a 20-year low was registered. The rise was largely attributed to the ongoing crisis in Iraq.

4.5 million Iraqis displaced

Iraqis topped the list of applicants for the second year in a row, accounting for over 10 percent of the total with 45,200 applications in 2007. Among the top five countries of origin were Russia (18,800 applications), China (17,100), Serbia (15,400) and Pakistan (14,300). Half of all asylum applications came from Asia.

"It is important to bear in mind that Iraqi asylum-seekers in industrialized countries represent only 1 percent of the estimated 4.5 million Iraqis uprooted by the conflict," the UNHCR report said.

An estimated 2 million Iraqis have fled to neighboring Jordan and Syria, while another 2.5 million have been internally displaced.

Eight of top 10 receiving countries in EU

The United States, which took in nearly 15 percent of all asylum-seekers in 2007, remains the most common country of application. However, it has only one asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants, while the density in the European Union is higher, with 2.6 refugees for every 1,000 inhabitants.

Sweden is the second most popular destination. The Scandinavian country registered a total of 36,200 claims last year -- a 50 percent increase over 2006.

Eight of the top 10 receiving countries are in Europe. France, Canada and the UK followed Sweden, taking in 8.6, 8.4 and 8.2 percent of applicants respectively. Germany received applications from 5.7 percent of asylum seekers in 2007.

Greece, Italy, Austria and Belgium were also among the top 10 receiving countries.

Iraq's neighbors in the Middle East, however, still bear the brunt of its refugee burden. On Tuesday, government representatives from Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt are set to hold talks in Amman to discuss the situation in the second meeting of its kind. Observers from Turkey, Iran, the UN and the Group of Eight industrialized nations are also expected to attend.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told journalists last month in Amman that the international community underestimated the economic strain the refugee situation was placing on Jordan and Syria in particular.

Source: DW (English)

1 comment:

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