UNHCR: Asylum Seekers From Syria, Iraq Dramatically Increasing

World | September 26, 2014, Friday // 11:34|  views

Syrian refugees wait at the Syrian-Turkish border near Sanliurfa, Turkey, 26 September 2014. Photo by EPA.

Number of people seeking refugee status in industrialized countries continued to grow in H1 2014, fueled by the wars in Syria and Iraq, and the conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea.

A report of the United Nations refugee agency released on Friday says 330,700 people asked for refugee status in 44 countries in Europe, North America and parts of the Asia-Pacific in first six months of 2014.

The figure marks a rise of 24% compared to the same period a year earlier, and slightly higher than in the second half of last year (328,100 claims).

The new Asylum Trends report warned that 2014 could produce as many as 700,000 claims – which would make it the highest level in industrialized countries in 20 years and a level not seen since the 1990s conflict in former Yugoslavia.

"We are clearly into an era of growing conflict," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ant?nio Guterres. "The global humanitarian system is already in great difficulty. The international community needs to prepare their populations for the reality that in the absence of solutions to conflict more and more people are going to need refuge and care in the coming months and years. Unfortunately, it is not clear that the resources and the access to asylum will be available to help them."

More than two thirds of the new claims were in just six countries – Germany, the United States, France, Sweden, Turkey and Italy, the report states.

Central Europe, in particular Hungary and Poland, as well as Australia saw declines in the numbers of people seeking refugee status. Australia had just 4,600 claims which is a 20% fall from a year earlier, while in Poland the number dropped to 3,300 (65% lower) and in Hungary to 4,800 (58% lower).

According to UN refugee agency, Syria was the main country of origin of people seeking asylum with a more than two-fold increase (48,400 claims compared to 18,900 in the same period in 2013). Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of people have become newly displaced this year, produced 21,300 asylum applications, followed by Afghanistan (19,300) and Eritrea (18,900).

As the report highlights, applications for refugee status in industrialized countries are just one element in the global picture of forced displacement from wars and conflict. As of the end of 2013, some 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide. Most remain either internally displaced within their own countries, or as refugees hosted in states bordering onto war zones.

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Tags: asylum seekers, refugee status, UNHCR, United Nations, refugee agency, Syria, Iraq


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