Iraqis still at the top of the asylum seeker table, despite drop

News Stories, 17 October 2008

© UNHCR/Electronic Publishing Unit

GENEVA, October 17 (UNHCR) A UN refugee agency report released on Friday shows that the number of Iraqis seeking asylum in industrialized countries dropped in the first six months of this year, but they were still by far the top nationality seeking asylum in these destinations.

According to the asylum trends report, the number of claims made by Iraqis (19,500) during the first six months of 2008, 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).

Compared to the previous six months, however, the number of Iraqi asylum seekers fell by 18 percent and by 10 percent 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 industrialized world.

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, which has resulted 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 industrialized 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 US, 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, followed by France, the United Kingdom and Sweden.

The number of asylum claims submitted in industrialized countries in 2007 rose by 9 percent compared to 2006. This upward trend has continued during the first half of this year, 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.

By William Spindler in Geneva




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Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

Posted on 12 June 2007

Crisis in Iraq: Displacement

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to Iraq in July 2009 to offer support to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced within their own country.

During her day-long visit to Baghdad, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited a makeshift settlement for internally displaced people in north-west Baghdad where she met families displaced from the district of Abu Ghraib, located to the west of Baghdad, and from the western suburbs of the capital.

Despite the difficulties in Iraq, Jolie said this was a moment of opportunity for Iraqis to rebuild their lives. "This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives."

UNHCR estimates that 1.6 million Iraqis were internally displaced by a wave of sectarian warfare that erupted in February 2006 after the bombing of a mosque in the ancient city of Samarra. Almost 300,000 people have returned to their homes amid a general improvement in the security situation since mid-2008.

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

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