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Asylum Seekers File Most Claims in Decade, UNHCR Says

World  (tags: 'CIVILLIBERTIES!', 'HUMANRIGHTS!', africa, asia, conflict, ethics, freedoms, europe, HumanRights, humanrights, government, middle-east, society, Refugees&Relief, Refugees&Relief, world, usa, unitednations, politics )

- 1916 days ago -
* 479,300 applications filed in 44 countries last year * Number of Syrian asylum seekers tripled over 2011 * Europe received most claims, led by Germany * U.S. remains "favoured destination", UNHCR says

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JL A (281)
Friday March 22, 2013, 2:51 pm
Asylum seekers file most claims in decade, UNHCR says

Wed, 20 Mar 2013 23:01 GMT

Source: reuters // Reuters

Syrian refugee Osama (L), 35, and his wife, pose with their two children in front of a Syrian opposition flag inside their home in Athens, Greece, February 7, 2013. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

* 479,300 applications filed in 44 countries last year

* Number of Syrian asylum seekers tripled over 2011

* Europe received most claims, led by Germany

* U.S. remains "favoured destination", UNHCR says

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, March 21 (Reuters) - Nearly half a million people sought asylum in the developed world last year, a 10-year high, with the sharpest rise in requests from Syrians fleeing war and persecution, the United Nations said on Thursday.

In all, 479,300 asylum applications were lodged in 44 industrialised countries, a rise of 8 percent on the previous year, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its annual report, entitled Asylum Trends 2012.

"This is the highest annual total since 2003, continuing a trend of increases in every year but one since 2006," it said.

Some 24,800 Syrian asylum seekers filed claims last year, triple the number in 2011, making them the second biggest group after 36,600 Afghan applicants, the report said.

But most Syrians fleeing the two-year conflict have stayed in neighbouring countries, where 1.1 million Syrian refugees are registered, many hoping to return to their homeland, it said.

Fighting in Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia also sparked claims.

"Wars are driving more and more people to seek asylum," Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement. "At a time of conflict, I urge countries to keep their borders open for people fleeing for their lives."

Despite heated debates and anti-foreigner sentiment in some European countries, asylum levels are far lower than in the early 1990s, when conflicts raged in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Great Lakes region of Africa. The peak remains 1992 when more than 800,000 claims were filed, the UNHCR says.

"Even if we have seen this increase of 8 percent compared to 2011, it's nothing compared to the 1990s," said Volker Turk, director of UNHCR's division of international protection.


"It's a bit of a tempest in a teapot type thing. Of course a rise in the industrialised world is nothing compared to what you see in the developing world and in areas affected directly by crisis," Turk told a news briefing.

Europe again received the most asylum applications of all regions last year - 355,500 in 38 countries, up by nine percent over 2011, the UNHCR said. They included 297,600 claims made in the 27 member states of the European Union (EU).

For the first time since 2001, Germany had the most claims in Europe, 64,500, a 41 percent jump from the previous year, partly due to a rise in asylum seekers from the Balkans.

France was next with 54,900 claims, with many from nationals of Russia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Albania, it said.

Sweden was third in Europe with 43,900 requests, a 48 percent jump led by Syrian and Somali asylum seekers.

Italy had a sharp drop after a record year in 2011 due to the arrival of boat people fleeing revolts in Libya and Tunisia.

But the United States remained the "favoured destination", receiving the largest number of asylum claims for the seventh straight year, 83,400, or one in six filed in developed countries.

Nearly half were people from China, Mexico and El Salvador.

"The U.S. has a very strong commitment and a very strong tradition of asylum," Turk said.

Canada recorded 20,500 new applications, 19 percent less than the previous year, while 15,800 people sought asylum in Australia, a jump of 37 percent, according to the UNHCR.

Japan and South Korea registered a combined total of 3,700 asylum claims, a 28 percent rise and record in both countries, but "modest in comparison with other industrialised countries".

On average, one in three claims is approved and asylum granted under the 1951 Refugee Convention, the UNHCR says.

"The vast majority of people who apply for asylum have a good reason to do so. You will obviously then always have a minority that may not need protection. But in most instances there is not an abuse issue," Turk said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Teresa W (782)
Friday March 22, 2013, 3:14 pm
very sad

Kit B (276)
Friday March 22, 2013, 5:01 pm

It's heart breaking. No matter how great we think out country is, others tend to feel the same way about their own land of birth. War, seems to be the strongest impetus for leaving to seek asylum, guess that surprises no one. We coulda, shoulda, woulda had an immigration reform in 2006 when Bush proposed it, but left, right or middle our Congress is one lazy, partisan bunch of do nothings. We must have a real reformed and updated immigration legislation - now.

Past Member (0)
Friday March 22, 2013, 5:10 pm
It must be very sad to have to leave your country because of war, human rights abuse etc Most of these people had no choice


JL A (281)
Friday March 22, 2013, 5:19 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.
You cannot currently send a star to Carol because you have done so within the last day.

Gloria picchetti (304)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 6:24 am
Sometimes I think the world is ending really soon.

cecily w (0)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 7:15 am
Only nine percent of the more than one million immigration visas issued by the US during 2010 were for asylees and refugees. We should reduce immigration visa TOTALS because of our need to reduce population growth but somewhere US priorities have been messsed up.

Past Member (0)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 1:21 pm
And, yet, the UN just came out with a report that poverty in 3rd world countries decreased dramatically in the last 10 years. These statistics usually rise and fall together. I've never seen them go in opposite directions. What's up?

Nancy M (169)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 1:38 pm
Interesting article. We hear far more about all those "illegals" than we do about people truly needing asylum, whether they make it here legally illegally or elswhere.

JL A (281)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 1:44 pm
Kinda makes one wonder how many of the undocumented had grounds for asylum but the broken system didn't work for them doesn't it?

Birgit W (160)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 3:19 pm
My heart goes out to them!

Sandra ;atterson (59)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 4:29 pm
That is just horrible! noted

Colleen L (3)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 5:09 pm
Thiis is so sad to read how people are forced to leave due to violence in their country. I pray that some day these acts of hatred and violence stop and disappear. Making it safer for all. Thanks J L

JL A (281)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 6:22 pm
You are welcome Colleen. You cannot currently send a star to Colleen because you have done so within the last day.

Billie C (2)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 7:32 pm
muslims need to take in muslims they can't live with others no matter how much they say they can. we do not need to take them here or we will end up like england.

M B (62)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 12:37 am
I'm glad I don't live in that kind of situation. Each case needs to be examined carefully.

JL A (281)
Sunday March 24, 2013, 9:33 am
Billie--your statement if policy violates the US Constitution. Please consider aligning your views with US law and values.

Lynn Squance (235)
Tuesday March 26, 2013, 9:34 pm
"Canada recorded 20,500 new applications, 19 percent less than the previous year . . . "

Well you can attribute that to Harper and his harlots! They have clamped down on anything and everything that doesn't meet with their brand of conservatism. I used to be very proud of my country, but that pride has flagged with the unmitigated BS of Harper.

@ Billie C --- Your Republican/Teabagger roots are showing again. If the UK has or had a problem, it is only because of conservatives.
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