Industrialised countries hit lowest asylum numbers since 1987, says UNHCR
GENEVA, Aug 31 (UNHCR) - The number of asylum seekers in industrialised countries has dropped to the lowest level in 17 years, according to second-quarter statistics released by the UN refugee agency today.
The latest report covers 30 industrialised countries for the period of April to June 2004. A total of 86,800 asylum applications were submitted over this period, 8 percent lower compared to the first quarter, which was itself 18 percent down on the last quarter of 2003.
"The total number of claims in all 30 industrialised countries during the first six months of 2004 is 22 percent lower than during the first half of 2003," said UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville at a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday. "The monthly average for the first half of this year is at its lowest level since 1987."
He noted that for the 20 European Union countries included in the report, the drop was 7 percent compared to the previous quarter, and 16 percent compared to the same six-month period last year.
The 14 "old" EU countries included in the report fell by 20 percent compared to the same six-month period last year. But the six new EU states included saw an increase of 31 percent during the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2003. It was the only region to show a major increase during the second quarter of 2004.
"The steep increase in Cyprus [90 percent to 2,110 applications] was mostly due to a sudden surge in applications by Bangladeshis who had originally entered the country on student visas," explained Colville. Numbers also went up in Poland and Slovakia.
France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria were the top five countries of asylum over this period.
Russians - most of whom are believed to be Chechens - were still the top group seeking asylum, with 7,310 during the second quarter. However they dropped slightly (4 percent) compared to the previous quarter, and hit their lowest level since the first quarter of 2003. Serbia and Montenegro produced the second-largest number of asylum seekers with 5,380 applications (down 7 percent), followed by China, Turkey and India.