Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

Provisional asylum statistics for industrialised countries

Briefing notes

Provisional asylum statistics for industrialised countries

24 March 2009 Also available in:

Today, we are releasing the provisional asylum statistics for 51 industrialised countries in 2008 and you have already received a press release. Copies of the full report are also available at the back of the room.

The statistics show that the number of asylum seekers in industrialised countries increased in 2008 for the second year running. The increase can partly be attributed to higher numbers of asylum applications by citizens of Afghanistan, Somalia and other countries experiencing turmoil or conflict. Although the number of Iraqi asylum seekers declined by 10 percent in 2008, Iraqis continued to be the largest nationality seeking asylum in the industrialised world.

Some 383,000 new asylum applications were submitted last year in the 51 industrialised countries, a 12 percent rise compared to 2007, when there were some 341,000 applications. This is the second consecutive annual increase in the number of asylum seekers since 2006, when the lowest number of asylum applications in 20 years was registered (307,000).

The top country of origin of asylum applicants in 2008 was Iraq (40,500, down 10 percent from 45,100 in 2007), followed by Somalia (21,800), the Russian Federation (20,500), Afghanistan (18,500) and China (17,400). Countries of origin recording a significant rise in applications included Afghanistan (up 85 percent), Zimbabwe (up 82 percent), Somalia (up 77 percent), Nigeria (up 71 percent) and Sri Lanka (up 24 percent). All of these countries experienced unrest or conflicts in 2008.

The United States continued to be the main country of destination for asylum seekers of all nationalities in 2008, with an estimated 49,000 new asylum claims, accounting for 13 percent of all applications in industrialised countries. Compared to the size of its national population, however, the United States had only one asylum seeker per 1,000 inhabitants, while the average in the European Union countries was 2.4 asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants.

After the United States, the main countries of destination for asylum seekers in 2008 were Canada (36,900), France (35,200), Italy (31,200) and the United Kingdom (30,500).