Syria conflict contributing to rising asylum claims in industrialized countries

News Stories, 20 March 2013

© UNHCR
Asylum claims lodged in 44 industrialized countries 1990 2012

GENEVA, March 21 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Thursday announced that new and old conflicts, including those in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, contributed to an eight per cent increase in asylum applications in industrialized countries during 2012, with the sharpest rise seen in asylum requests from Syrians.

Some 479,300 claims were registered across the 44 countries surveyed in UNHCR's Asylum Trends 2012 report, released today. This is the highest annual total since 2003, continuing a trend of increases evident in every year but one, since 2006.

"Wars are driving more and more people to seek asylum," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. "And this makes upholding the international system of asylum more critical than ever. At a time of conflict, I urge countries to keep their borders open for people fleeing for their lives."

By region, Europe was the main recipient of asylum applications in 2012 with 355,500 claims across 38 countries compared to 327,600 in 2011. Germany saw the highest number of new applications (64,500 claims a 41 per cent increase), followed by France (54,900 claims a five per cent increase) and Sweden (43,900 claims a 48 per cent increase). A 33 per cent increase in claims in Switzerland (25,900) placed it almost level with the United Kingdom (27,400 a six percent increase).

Overall, however, the single largest recipient of asylum requests was the United States with 83,400 claims, 7,400 more than in 2011. Most of these were individuals from China (24 per cent), Mexico (17 per cent) and El Salvador (seven per cent).

North-east Asia and Australia also saw increases, but overall asylum claims remained of a lower order. Japan and South Korea registered 3,700 new claims in 2012, a 28 per cent increase on a year earlier. The number of people seeking asylum in Australia jumped 37 per cent with a total of 15,800 applications reportedly registered in 2012.

Across the countries surveyed, the patterns of increases over the last five years vary significantly. Compared to their population sizes, Malta, Sweden and Liechtenstein had more asylum-seekers than other countries (21.7 per 1,000 inhabitants, 16.4 per 1,000, and 16.1 per 1,000 respectively). Measured against the size of their economies, France, the United States and Germany had most asylum seekers (6.5 asylum seekers for each dollar of per capita GDP, 6.2 and 5.2 respectively).

© UNHCR
Distribution of asylum claims by region of origins 2012

Afghanistan remained the main country of origin of asylum-seekers (36,600 claims versus 36,200 in 2011). Syria was the second largest, the conflict there reflected in a jump from 15th place in 2011 and a 191 per cent increase in asylum claims to 24,800. Serbia [and Kosovo: S/RES/1244(1999)] was third with 24,300 claims, a 14 per cent increase. Large numbers of asylum claims were also submitted by individuals from China (24,100) and Pakistan (23,200 the highest number on record and a 21 per cent increase on 2011).

Asylum claims are not the same as the numbers of people given refugee status, nor are they an indicator of immigration. In most cases people seeking refuge from conflict choose to remain in countries neighbouring their own in hope of being able to return home (an example is Syria, where the figure of 24,800 Syrian asylum claims in industrialized countries compares to more than 1.1 million registered Syrian refugees currently in neighbouring countries). Nonetheless, asylum claims can reflect prevailing global security and political risk environments: When there is more conflict there are more refugees.

UNHCR publishes data on worldwide refugees, internally displaced people, and asylum seekers in its annual Global Trends reports, available on UNHCR's international website. The next Global Trends report is due for release in June 2013.

UNHCR's Asylum Trends 2012 report plus accompanying photos and captions for media use can be downloaded here .

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

Asylum-Seekers

UNHCR advocates fair and efficient procedures for asylum-seekers

Statistics

Numbers are important in the aid business and UNHCR's statisticians monitor them daily.

UNHCR Statistical Yearbooks

These yearbooks follow major trends in displacement, protection and solutions.

UNHCR Statistical Online Population Database

Standardized data on UNHCR's population of concern at country, regional, and global levels.

Refugees

The number of refugees of concern to UNHCR stood at 10.4 million at the beginning of 2013, down slightly from a year earlier.

Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Refugees prepare for winter in Jordan's Za'atari camp

Life in Jordan's Za'atari refugee camp is hard. Scorching hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter, this flat, arid patch of land near the border with Syria was almost empty when the camp opened in July. Today, it hosts more than 31,000 Syrians who have fled the conflict in their country.

The journey to Jordan is perilous. Refugees cross the Syrian-Jordan border at night in temperatures that now hover close to freezing. Mothers try to keep their children quiet during the journey. It is a harrowing experience and not everyone makes it across.

In Za'atari, refugees are allocated a tent and given sleeping mats, blankets and food on arrival. But as winter approaches, UNHCR is working with partners to ensure that all refugees will be protected from the elements. This includes upgrading tents and moving the most vulnerable to prefabricated homes, now being installed.

Through the Norwegian Refugee Council, UNHCR has also distributed thousands of winter kits that include thermal liners, insulated ground pads and metal sheeting to build sheltered kitchen areas outside tents. Warmer clothes and more blankets will also be distributed where needed.

Refugees prepare for winter in Jordan's Za'atari camp

Congolese Refugees flee to Rwanda

In the first ten days of May 2012, more than 6,500 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo crossed into Rwanda, fleeing fighting between the Congolese army and renegade soldiers. UNHCR and its UN partners worked with the Rwandan government to provide the refugees with humanitarian assistance in the early stages of the crisis, and to find solutions until it is safe for them to return.

Some of the refugees walked for days before reaching the Goma-Gisenyi border crossing between Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. They came with their belongings, including mattresses, clothing, perhaps a few toys for the children. The images are from the border and from the Nkamira Transit Centre, located 22 kilometres inside Rwanda. Accommodation at Nkamira is poor: the centre can only host up to 5,400 individuals. It is only temporary shelter, but numbers continue to swell as hundreds cross the border every day.

Congolese Refugees flee to Rwanda

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African RefugeesPlay video

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African Refugees

The UN refugee agency and its partners appealed for more donor support to cope with the continuing outflow and deteriorating condition of refugees from the Central African Republic.
Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat campPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat camp

Concluding a visit to Iraq, UNHCR chief António Guterres met with Syrian refugees in Arbat camp in the Kurdistan region. Guterres noted the recent proliferation of humanitarian crises, but urged the international community not to forget about Syria, "the mega protracted crisis of our times."
Iraq: High Commissioner visits displaced IraqisPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits displaced Iraqis

This week UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is visiting Iraq to meet with families displaced by conflict in recent weeks. After listening to accounts of their difficult journeys to safety, Guterres called for more support to help deal with the crisis. He will also visit some of the 300,000 Syrian refugees currently living in camps in northern Iraq.