UN: Number of asylum seekers on the rise
There was a 12 per cent rise in the number of asylum seekers in industrialized nations in 2008, the United Nations said Tuesday, in part due to the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, dpa reported.
In all, 383,000 new asylum requests were made in 51 industrialized countries last year, with about 40,000 coming from Iraqis, the largest group seeking refugee status.
Other top countries of origin were Somalia, Russia, Afghanistan and China. Of particular note was a rise of 85 per cent in the number of Afghan applications, an 82 per cent increase in requests from Zimbabwe and 77 per cent more Somalis sought asylum.
Nigeria and Sri Lanka, both areas that have seen unrest or conflict, also posted increases.
In terms of where the refugees wanted to go, the United States remained the main destination, accounting for 13 per cent of all applications in the industrialized world. The other main countries were Canada, France, Italy and Britain.
The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, noted though that relative to population the US was lagging behind, as it only had one asylum seeker per 1,000 residents, whereas in the European Union the average was 2.4 asylum seekers per the same number of inhabitants.
Sweden dropped from being the second largest recipient of new asylum seekers in 2007 to sixth last year, while Norway zoomed up from number 17 to 10th place.