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2004 asylum statistics for industrialised countries

Briefing notes

2004 asylum statistics for industrialised countries

1 March 2005

UNHCR is today releasing the annual statistics on asylum seekers arriving in industrialised countries. We have issued a press release commenting on the main findings of the 25-page statistical report and copies are at the back of the room. Some of the highlights are as follows:

  • In 2004, the number of asylum seekers fell sharply for the third year in a row, reaching its lowest level for 16 years across all the industrialised countries for which comparable historical statistics are available.
  • In the six non-European countries included in the list, the combined total was the lowest since 1986. The numbers arriving in Europe are also back down to the levels of the late 1980s, although still higher than they were for a short period in the mid-1990s.
  • Overall, the number of asylum claims in industrialized countries fell by 22 percent in 2004, compounding a similarly steep decline in 2003. In the EU, the number fell by 19 percent, in North America by 26 percent and in Australia and New Zealand by 28 percent.
  • In many individual asylum countries, the 2004 total was the lowest for many years. In Germany, for example, the number is the lowest since 1984; in the U.S. and Switzerland, the lowest since 1987; and in the Netherlands, the lowest since 1988. And the number of asylum seekers arriving in the U.K. is back down to the levels of the early to mid 1990s, after plummeting 61 percent in two years.
  • The top receiving country in 2004 was France, with an estimated 61,600 asylum seekers. The United States, which was top receiving country last year, came second with 52,400. The UK fell to third with 40,200, and Germany - the top asylum country in 13 of the past 20 years - was in fourth place with 35,600. Canada came in fifth with 25,500.
  • The largest group of asylum seekers in 2004 was from the Russian Federation (30,100). The majority of these are Chechens. The next largest groups of asylum seekers were from Serbia and Montenegro (22,300), many of whom are from Kosovo; China (19,700); Turkey (16,200) and India (11,900). The ten leading asylum-seeker nationalities all recorded a significant drop in 2004.
  • Perhaps most striking, the number of Afghans - the top group in 2001 with more than 50,000 asylum seekers - has fallen by 83 percent in the past three years. They now stand in 13th place, with 8,800 asylum seekers in 2004.
  • Against the general downward trend, the 10 states that joined the EU last May actually saw their combined total increase by 4 percent in 2004 (and by 18 percent in the last quarter of the year, compared to the previous quarter).