Europeans, the Once Upon a Time Refugees!

Human Wrongs Watch

Geneva–The number of human beings seeking asylum in enriched industrialized countries –most of them were a massive source of refugees after II World War– has registered a high increase during the first half of 2011. Meanwhile, up to 80 per cent of all refugees on Earth are hosted in mostly impoverished developing nations.

Born stateless, this baby acquired nationality in 2008 in Bangladesh | Credit: UN

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 long-standing displacement situations, the Geneva-based UN refugee agency UNHCR reported on October 18, 2011.

UNHCR’s “Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries, First Half 2011” report also shows that 198,300 asylum applications were lodged in the period between January 1 and June 30, compared to 169,300 in the same period in 2010.

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

Forced Displacements

So far this year there have been 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.

A Year of Displacements Crises

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: Security Council Resolution 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 UNHCR chief António Guterres.

By Continents and Countries

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 with (26,100), Germany (20,100), Sweden (12,600) and the United Kingdom (12,200).

Meanwhile, in north-east Asia applications more than doubled – 1,300 claims were lodged in Japan and South Korea compared to 600 in the first half of 2010.

80 % of All Refugees, Hosted in Developing Countries

Meanwhile, this report, which complements UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report, issued in June each year, this year found that 80 per cent of refugees are being hosted in developing countries.

UNHCR’s 2010 Global Trends report shows that many of the world’s poorest countries are hosting huge refugee populations, both in absolute terms and in relation to the size of their economies.

Poorest Countries, the Most Impacted

Pakistan, Iran and Syria have the largest refugee populations at 1.9 million, 1.1 million and 1 million respectively.

Pakistan also has the biggest economic impact with 710 refugees for each US dollar of its per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product), followed by Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya with 475 and 247 refugees respectively.

By comparison, Germany, the industrialized country with the largest refugee population (594,000 people), has 17 refugees for each dollar of per capita GDP.

Overall, the picture presented by the 2010 report is of a drastically changed protection environment to that of 60 years ago when the UN refugee agency was founded.

At First, the Europeans Were the Refugees!

At that time UNHCR’s caseload was 2.1 million Europeans, uprooted by World War Two. Today, UNHCR’s work extends to more than 120 countries and encompasses people forced to flee across borders as well as those in flight within their own countries.

The 2010 Global Trends report shows that 43.7 million people are now displaced worldwide – roughly equalling the entire populations of Colombia or South Korea, or of Scandinavia and Sri Lanka combined.

Refugees in Their Own Countries

Within this total are 15.4 million refugees (10.55 million under UNHCR’s care and 4.82 million registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), 27.5 million people displaced within their own country by conflict, and nearly 850,000 asylum-seekers, nearly one fifth of them in South Africa alone.

Particularly distressing are the 15,500 asylum applications by unaccompanied or separated children, most of them Somali or Afghan.

Source and related:   and

2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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