Iraqis top latest asylum figures for industrialized countries
The number of Iraqis applying for asylum in industrialized countries went up by 45 percent in the first half of 2007 compared to the previous six months, according to our latest quarterly statistical report on asylum trends in industrialized countries. The information is based on official information provided by governments.
Iraqis made some 19,800 asylum claims during the first six months of 2007 in the 36 industrialized countries included, an increase of 45 percent compared to the last six months of 2006, when 13,600 applications were received. The Iraqi number for the first six months is already approaching the total figure for all of 2006 - 22,200. Iraqis were the No. 1 nationality applying for asylum in industrialized countries in the first half of the year.
This latest figure, which reflect continuing violence in Iraq, are more than double those for the first six months of 2006, when a total of 8,500 asylum applications were submitted by Iraqis. If this trend is maintained, by the end of the year the number of Iraqi asylum seekers might reach over 40,000, the highest number since 2002.
Almost half of all Iraqi applications (some 9,300), were submitted in Sweden. The large Iraqi community in that country and its strong social network might account for the high number of Iraqi asylum seekers there. Greece registered some 3,500 asylum claims by Iraqis in the first half of this year, while Spain and Germany recorded 1,500 and 820 applications respectively.
When all nationalities applying for asylum are taken into account, the United States was by far the largest recipient of new asylum claims during the first six months of 2007. It had an estimated 26,800 applications, some 1,200 more than during the second semester of 2006. Sweden remained the second largest recipient of new asylum claims from all nationalities throughout the same period, with a total of 17,700 people applying for asylum.
Greece became the third most important destination for asylum seekers, with a record-high of 14,700 new asylum applications. In addition to reflecting an increase in new arrivals (particularly of Iraqi nationals), the figures also reflect special procedures introduced in late 2006 by the Greek authorities to clear a backlog of asylum applications.
France ranked fourth among the 36 industrialized countries with some 14,000 claims, followed by the United Kingdom (12,700), Canada (11,400), Germany (8,200), and Austria (5,700).
Over the past few years, the overall number of new asylum claims submitted in the 36 industrialized countries covered by UNHCR's report has decreased continuously. This trend, however, was reversed in the second half of 2006, when numbers started to rise. Assuming that current patterns remain unchanged, it can be expected that the total number of asylum claims lodged in industrialized countries in 2007 might be between 290,000 and 320,000, the first increase since 2001.
The main countries of origin of asylum applicants in the first six months of this year were Iraq (19,800), China (8,600), Pakistan (7,300), Serbia and Montenegro (7,200) and the Russian Federation (6,500).