Middle East News
UNHCR: Iraqi exodus continues
Mar 23, 2007, 16:11 GMT
Geneva - The number of people fleeing Iraq continued to grow in 2006, although it still fell short of the peak levels seen in 2002 just before the fall of Saddam Hussein, according to a report published Friday by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
The numbers of Iraqis seeking asylum in industrialized countries rose 77 per cent last year from 12,500 to 22,200 in 2006.
The largest numbers applied in the last quarter of the year amid growing violence.
In 2002, under the previous Iraqi regime, 50,000 asylum claims were made.
Sweden was the most popular choice as recipient country, with some 9,000 applications, followed by the Netherlands (2,800), Germany (2,100) and Greece (1,400).
Despite the big rise in Iraqis seeking asylum, the number overall of asylum seekers continued its steady decline.
In Europe as a whole, it was the lowest for 20 years.
In the 50 industrialized countries, some of which have actively discouraged asylum seekers, applications have more than halved in five years, the report said.
After Iraq, China was pushed up from fourth to second place in terms of numbers of people seeking to leave the country (18,300). This was mainly due to a sharp drop in people wishing to leave the Russian Federation (15,700), and Serbia and Montenegro (15,600).
The United States was the main country of destination for asylum seekers, with 51,000 applications, returning to first place after slipping behind France last year.
France, in second place, saw a 39-per-cent fall in asylum applications.
Britain, Sweden, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Greece and Belgium made up the rest of the top 10 most sought after destinations.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur