Requests for asylum by Zimbabweans surges by 82%, says UN body

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – ZIMBABWE had the second-highest number of people seeking asylum in industrialised countries last year, Afghanistan tops with 85%, according to a United Nations (UN) report released yesterday.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report said the number of people seeking asylum rose last year for the second year in a row, partly due to an increase in applications by people from Afghanistan, Somalia and other countries that were experiencing turmoil or conflict.

It said the countries of origin showing a significant rise in applications for asylum due to unrest or conflict last year included Afghanistan (up 85%), Zimbabwe (up 82%), Somalia (up 77%), Nigeria (up 71%) and Sri Lanka (up 24%).

The report, which contains provisional asylum statistics for 51 industrialised countries last year, said about 383000 new asylum applications were submitted in these representing a 12% increase during 2007, during which there were about 341000 applications.

The UNHCR describes an asylum seeker as an individual who has sought international protection and whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined.

The report has argued that while the number of Iraqi asylum seekers declined 10% last year, Iraqis continued to be “the largest nationality seeking asylum” in the industrialised world, with 40500 applications submitted last year.

This is followed by Somalia, Russia, Afghanistan and China.

The report said that the US was still the main country of destination for asylum-seekers , followed by Canada, France, Italy and the UK. With Sweden, Germany, Greece, Switzerland and Norway, these 10 countries received 73% of asylum applications in the industrialised world .