Asylum claims in the West rose 20 pct in 2011-UNHCR
Tue Mar 27, 2012 12:01am GMT
* Afghans, Chinese and Iraqis lodge most claims in West
* Europe favoured destination; U.S. largest recipient of claims
* Claims in West smaller than population of one Kenyan camp
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, March 27 (Reuters) - The number of people seeking asylum in the West
jumped 20 percent last year, with record numbers fleeing conflicts in Libya,
Syria and Ivory Coast, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.
The largest regional rise was in those applying for refugee status in
southern Europe, it said. Most arrived by boat in Italy and Malta,
originating from North Africa or sub-Saharan Africa. Turkey also saw a sharp
influx of Iraqis.
Overall, 441,300 asylum claims were registered in 44 industrialised
countries in 2011 compared with 368,00 the previous year, with Afghans
forming the biggest group, followed by Chinese and Iraqis, the U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
"Reflecting turmoil in West Africa and in the Arab world, asylum seekers
from Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Libya, Syria and other countries reached
record levels in 2011 with 16,700 more claims than in 2010," the
Geneva-based agency said in a report.
The 2011 figures were the highest since 2003 when more than 505,000 requests
were lodged in industrialised countries.
Asylum and immigration in general is a political flashpoint in many European
countries, including Britain, France and Italy, as well as in Australia and
the United States.
Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said that it was
important to put the latest figures in perspective.
"The number of asylum claims received across all industrialised countries is
still smaller than the population of Dadaab, a single refugee camp in
northeast Kenya," he said.
The sprawling Dadaab complex, the world's largest refugee camp, now shelters
462,856 Somalis who have fled war and drought in their anarchic homeland.
EUROPE PREFERRED DESTINATION
A record 1,500 migrants, mainly from Somalia and other parts of Africa, died
trying to reach European shores in 2011, the UNHCR said on Jan. 31.
About 35,700 Afghans sought asylum in the West last year, a 34 percent jump,
and 24,400 Chinese lodged claims, half of them in the United States. Iraqis
were the third largest group, filing 23,500 requests in industrialised
Europe was the preferred destination for refugees, with the continent's 38
countries receiving 327,200 asylum claims, a 19 percent rise over a year
before. The European Union (EU), with 27 member states, had 277,400 claims,
a 15 percent rise.
But the United States was again the largest recipient of new asylum claims,
accounting for 74,000 applications or one in six overall. Requests there
grew 33 percent, half of them by asylum-seekers from China, Mexico and El
Canada had 25,300 applications, a 9 percent rise.
Referring to North America, the UNHCR said: "Although 2011 is the highest
level in almost a decade for this region, it is two-thirds that of 2001,
when close to 150,000 applications in total were lodged in Canada and the
United States of America."
France had the second largest number of asylum requests last year at 51,900,
an 8 percent rise, due to more claims from Armenians and Ivorians, although
Russians formed the main group.
Germany was third with 45,700, an 11 percent increase, due to higher numbers
from Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan.
The number of asylum-seekers in Australia and New Zealand fell by 9 percent
last year to 11,800, mainly because fewer would-be refugees arrived in
Australia by boat, it said.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's asylum policy was thrown into
confusion in 2011 when the High Court rejected her plan for a refugee swap
with Malaysia. Opposition in parliament then forced the government to
abandon tough offshore processing popular with many voters.
"Asylum levels in Australia remain below those recorded by many other
industrialised and non-industrialised countries," the UNHCR said. (editing
by David Stamp)
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Received on Tue Mar 27 2012 - 08:38:23 EDT