Industrialized countries saw a 17 per cent increase in asylum applications in the first half of this year, with most claimants coming from countries with longstanding displacement situations. This is according to a report released today by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

UNHCR’s Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries, First Half
2011 report shows that 198,300 asylum applications were lodged in the period between 1 January and 30 June 2011, compared to 169,300 in the same period a year earlier.

As application rates normally peak during the second half of the year, UNHCR forecasts that 2011 may see 420,000 applications by year’s end – the highest total in eight years.

2011 has so far seen major forced displacement crises in West, North, and East Africa. The report finds related increases in asylum claims among Tunisians, Ivorians, and Libyans (4,600, 3,300 and 2,000 claims
respectively) but overall, the impact of these events on application rates in industrialized countries has been limited.

Taking the 44 countries surveyed in the report as a whole, the main countries of origin of asylum-seekers remained largely unchanged from previous surveys: Afghanistan (15,300 claims), China (11,700 claims), Serbia [and Kosovo: SC Res. 1244] (10,300 claims), Iraq (10,100 claims), and Iran (7,600 claims).

“2011 has been a year of displacement crises unlike any other I have seen in my time as High Commissioner,” said Ant?nio Guterres, head of UNHCR. “Their impact on asylum claims in industrialized countries seems to have been lower so far than might have been expected, as most of those who fled went to neighbouring countries. Nonetheless we are grateful that the industrialized states have continued to respect the right of people to have their claims to asylum heard.”

By continent, Europe registered the highest number of claims with 73 per cent of all asylum applications in industrialized countries. Only Australasia saw a significant decline in applicants: 5,100 claims compared with 6,300 a year earlier.

By country, the United States had more claims (36,400) than any other industrialized nation, followed by France (26,100), Germany (20,100), Sweden (12,600), and the United Kingdom (12,200). The Nordic region was the only part of Europe to see a fall in asylum applications. Meanwhile, in Northeast Asia applications more than doubled – 1,300 claims were lodged in Japan and South Korea compared to 600 in the first half of 2010.

The report does not show how many applications translate into the granting of asylum (ie, refugee status), nor are its findings an indicator of migration rates. The Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries, First Half 2011 report complements UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report, issued in June each year, and which this year found that 80 percent of refugees are being hosted in developing countries.

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