Asylum applications and recognition rates falling
358,800 people applied for asylum during 2010 in 44 industrialised countries, according to a UNHCR report released on 28th March. This number is the fourth lowest of the last decade and almost half (42 per cent) of the 620,000 applications filed in 2001.
The drop regards the southern part of Europe in particular, where 33% fewer applications were submitted in comparison with 2009. Italy, Greece and Malta registered fewer requests for international protection, while Germany, Sweden, Belgium and France examined more asylum claims than in 2009. Among the countries of origin of asylum seekers the largest group was from Serbia, with a 54% increase compared to 2009, and from Afghanistan despite a decrease of 9%. Moreover, there was a substantial drop in the number of new requests of international protection from Iraqi and Somali nationals.
High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said “The global dynamics of asylum are changing. Asylum claims in the industrialized world are much lower than a decade ago while year-on-year levels are up in only a handful of countries, we need to study the root causes to see if the decline is because of fewer push factors in areas of origin, or tighter migration control in countries of asylum“.
Regarding European Union Member States in particular, Eurostat released on 29 March its statistics for asylum application and first instance decisions. According to Eurostat the number of asylum applications in the 27 EU Member States was stable during 2010, with 257,800 claims for international protection introduced, while during 2009 the applications in the EU were 260,730. France received the highest number of requests (51 600), followed by Germany (48 500) and Belgium (26 100). People seeking international protection in the EU in 2010 came mostly from Afghanistan (20 600) and also Russia, Serbia, Iraq and Somalia.
Ireland and Greece were the European Union countries least likely to grant international protection over the course of 2010. Ireland rejected 98% of the total number of asylum applications, while Greece refused 97% of the applicants. That compared with an EU average of 75% negative decisions. In 2009, 73% of the decisions on asylum applications in the EU were negative.
US tops recipient list
Among individual countries, the United States remained the largest asylum recipient for the fifth consecutive year, accounting for one out of every six asylum applications in the industrialized countries covered in the report. The US saw an increase of 6,500 applications, partly due to a rise in the number of Chinese and Mexican asylum-seekers.
Sweden and Canada ranked fourth and fifth respectively. Together, the top five countries of asylum accounted for more than half (56 per cent) of all asylum applications covered in this report
The conclusion is that asylum rate applications fell in 2010 to almost half of their 2001 levels causing concern in some quarters that this could be due to more stringent approaches to asylum applications by member states.