First quarter 2004 asylum statistics
The number of people seeking asylum in industrialised countries fell sharply in the first quarter of 2004, continuing a downward trend that began in 2002.
In Europe as a whole, there was an 18 percent drop in applicants. In the 14 European Union countries included in the statistics, numbers fell by 15 percent. And, in North America, there was an 8 percent drop.
There has been a spectacular decline in the number of Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers, and a sharp drop in Russian claims - mainly from Chechens.
This is the eighth quarter out of the last ten during which the number of asylum applications has decreased. It is also the first time in many years the quarterly number of asylum claims in the listed countries has fallen below 100,000.
Of the 29 countries listed, only seven saw an increase in numbers, and almost all of these were countries that receive relatively few asylum seekers.
A total of 92,700 asylum applications were submitted in the 29 countries between 1 January and 31 March, down 16 percent on the previous quarter, when 110,600 people made claims.
France received the largest number of asylum seekers with 15,740 claims - but this is a 7 percent decrease from the previous quarter. The second highest recipient was the UK, down 20 percent with 10,590 claims, followed by Germany, down 12 percent with 10,170 claims, and the U.S. down 9 percent with 9,710 claims.
Among other major asylum countries, sizeable drops were recorded in Sweden - down 25 percent to 6,242, and Austria down 24 percent to 5,920. Substantial drops were also recorded in Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Norway, Poland and Slovakia.
Russians - most of whom are Chechens - remained the top group, with 7,508 asylum seekers. However, this was 26 percent down on the previous quarter.
Afghans and Iraqis - the two top groups in 2001 and 2002 - continued their spectacular decline and now lie in 11th and 12th place respectively. The number of Iraqis fell by 31 percent compared to the previous quarter, and Afghans by 29 percent. Comparing the first quarter of this year to the same period a year ago, Iraqi asylum seekers fell by 81 percent.
In all, only five of the top 40 asylum-seeking nationalities actually increased in number. The number of Algerians arriving increased by 30 percent, to 2,626 (close to one third of them going to France); Haitians went up by 28 percent to 1,727 (almost two thirds of them to the U.S. and one third to France), and Slovaks were up 109 percent to 1,052 (mostly arriving in Finland, Belgium and Germany).