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Latest asylum statistics for 36 industrialized nations

Briefing notes

Latest asylum statistics for 36 industrialized nations

19 September 2006

The downward trend in asylum applications in most industrialized countries continues unabated, according to the latest UNHCR statistical report being released today. The report, based on provisional data provided to UNHCR by governments, indicates that during the first six months of 2006, a total of 134,900 asylum applications were submitted in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. This represents a drop of 14 percent compared to the same period last year, when 156,300 applications were recorded. Asylum applications lodged during the first half of 2006 are 15 percent lower than the previous semester (July to December 2005), when 158,800 applications were registered.

Last year saw the lowest number of asylum seekers in industrialized countries since 1987. Figures for the first half of this year point to 2006 reaching yet lower records.

In Europe, a total of 97,000 new asylum applications were submitted during the first six months of 2006, 19 percent fewer than during the corresponding period in 2005 (120,200) and 21 percent fewer than in the previous six months.

A similar trend was recorded in the 24 countries of the European Union for which data are available, with a 20 percent fall in new asylum applications (89,200) compared with the first six months of 2005 (112,200) and a 21 percent drop compared with the previous semester.

Over the past few years, 80 percent of asylum requests in industrialized countries were made in Europe. Europe's share has now declined to roughly 70 percent of asylum applications in the 36 industrialized countries included in the UNHCR report.

At the same time, North America's share has increased from about 20 percent of all applications in industrialized countries to nearly 30 percent during the first semester of 2006. The share of Australia and New Zealand, on the other hand, has remained fairly stable at about 1 percent of all applications in industrialized countries. The changes are the result of fewer people applying for asylum in Europe. This can be attributed to a large extent to the introduction of more restrictive asylum policies across the continent, as well as to improved conditions in some of the main countries of origin of asylum seekers.

The United States received the largest number of asylum applications - 25,500 or 19 percent of the total number of applications lodged in industrialized countries, followed by France (16,400), the United Kingdom (13,900), Germany (10,600) and Canada (10,100). The main countries of origin of asylum applicants were China (8,800), followed by Iraq (8,500), Serbia and Montenegro (8,000), the Russian Federation (6,900) and Turkey (4,600). Among the few nationalities recording a rise in applicants were Iraqis, recording a 25 percent increase over the previous six months and up almost 50 percent over the same period a year ago.