Geneva : The number of asylum seekers in industrialised countries continued to increase last year with some 383,000 new applications, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said.
New asylum applications submitted last year in 51 industrialised countries increased 12 percent compared to 2007, when there were some 341,000 applications, according to provisional figures released by the agency Tuesday.
“The increase can partly be attributed to higher numbers of asylum applications by citizens of Afghanistan, Somalia and other countries experiencing turmoil or conflict,” UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.
“Although the number of Iraqi asylum seekers declined by 10 percent in 2008, Iraqis continued to be the largest nationality seeking asylum in the industrialised world,” he said.
According to UNHCR, the top country of origin of asylum applicants in 2008 was Iraq (40,500), followed by Somalia (21,800), the Russian Federation (20,500) and Afghanistan (18,500).
“The United States continued to be the main country of destination for asylum seekers of all nationalities in 2008, with an estimated 49,000 new asylum claims, accounting for 13 percent of all applications in industrialized countries,” Redmond said.
After the United States, the main countries of destination for asylum seekers in 2008 were Canada (36,900), France (35,200), Italy (31,200) and Britain (30,500).