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UNHCR publishes 2001 asylum trends statistical report

Briefing notes

UNHCR publishes 2001 asylum trends statistical report

1 February 2002

More than 510,000 people applied for asylum in 27 industrialized countries in 2001, according to a preliminary statistical report issued by UNHCR. The report analyzes asylum data for the year 2001 in 25 European countries, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. Because the United Kingdom and Greece have provided only partial data for 2001 to date, the two countries are excluded from much of the analysis. A full analysis on Europe will be made as the information becomes available.

In the 27 countries which have provided complete asylum statistics for 2001, total asylum applications increased by some 10 percent over 2000. However, in the 13 European Union countries for which annual data are available, applications increased by less than 1 percent - from 288,000 applications in 2000 to 290,500 last year. Meanwhile, in the six Central European countries covered by the report applications rose by 38 percent, from 30,500 to 42,100. This trend builds on a longer-term tendency, with applications in the 13 EU countries decreasing by 3 percent since 1999, while Central European applications have surged by 76 percent over the same timeframe.

European countries seeing fewer applicants in 2001 than in 2000 include Slovenia, Finland, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Ireland and Portugal.

In the non-European countries, applications increased in the United States by 36 percent, in Canada by 13 percent, and in New Zealand by 11 percent. Applications in Australia dropped by more than 10 percent. The Australia statistics provided by the government from September onward do not include asylum-seekers "who arrived at offshore excised places or who are being processed on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea or Nauru."

Because some data are still unavailable, it is not yet possible to determine which industrialized country received the largest number of asylum applications for the entire year. In 2000, the United Kingdom received the most asylum-seekers, at 98,900, followed by Germany (78,800) and the United States (63,700). Data available to date for 2001 show the same three countries receiving the largest numbers, but a final ranking will only be possible when the full annual data from the UK are available.

In 2001, for the first time, Afghans made up the largest group of people seeking asylum in industrialized countries. Asylum applications from Afghans increased by 60 percent in 2001 over 2000, placing Afghanistan at the top of the list of countries of origin for the whole year, up from third place in recent years. However, the number of Afghans applying for asylum each month dropped off sharply toward the end of the year - after a peak of over 4,300 applications in October, the numbers dropped to 2,733 in December, the lowest monthly figure all year.

The second largest number of applicants in 2001 came from Iraq, followed by Turkey. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which had been either the largest or the second largest country of origin since 1991, dropped to fourth in 2001.

The largest relative increase from 1999 to 2001 among the top 40 countries of origin is in applications from Colombians, with five times as many applications in 2001 than in 1999. In 2001 alone, Colombian applications were up by 79 percent over the previous year - from 7,000 applications to 12,500. This moved Colombia up from the 18th largest country of origin to the 8th largest. In the 23 European countries with complete data, a large relative increase was seen in applicants from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, with 5,600 applications in 2001, more than six times the number in 2000.

The biggest drops in annual applications were from nationals of Iran (down 50 percent), Slovakia (down 38 percent), Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (down 36 percent), and Albania (down 22 percent).