New UN refugee statistics show global drop in number of asylum seekers

The number of asylum seekers in over two dozen industrialized countries dropped by 12 per cent over the past six months, according to statistics released today by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Applications in Europe were down overall by 12 per cent compared to the last six months of 2001, while Central Europe saw an almost 39 per cent decline. The agency attributed this trend in part to the steep drop in applications from Afghans, with less than half seeking asylum early this year compared to the previous six-month period. Bucking the overall trend, several nations saw increases in the number of applicants compared to the second half of 2001. With a 59 per cent jump, Finland experienced the largest increase, followed by Bulgaria at 54 per cent, Austria at 13 per cent, and the United States at 9 per cent. Most of the world’s asylum seekers come from Iraq, but even though over 22,000 people from that country sought refuge, this figure represents a 15 per cent drop compared to the last half of 2001. Afghans were the second largest nationality seeking asylum, followed by applicants from Turkey, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, China, the Russian Federation, Colombia, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and India. In all 28 countries surveyed, a total of approximately 268,500 asylum applications were filed from January to June of this year, UNHCR said.

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