Iraq tops list of asylum seekers

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 24 (UPI) -- Iraqis made up the largest group of asylum seekers in the world, though conflicts in Afghanistan and Somalia also brought applicants, the United Nations said.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said there were some 383,000 new asylum applications in 2008, and the bulk of those came from Iraq.


"The increase can partly be attributed to higher numbers of asylum applications by citizens of Afghanistan, Somalia and other countries experiencing turmoil or conflict," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said. "Although the number of Iraqi asylum seekers declined by 10 percent in 2008, Iraqis continued to be the largest nationality seeking asylum in the industrialized world."

Afghanistan, meanwhile, saw an 85 percent increase in the total number of applicants in 2008, followed by an 82 percent increase in Zimbabwe and a 77 percent increase in Somalia.

The 2008 figures are up 12 percent from the previous year, and the UNHCR said asylum seekers were applying for refuge in more countries than in previous years.

The United States was the primary country for asylum applications; Canada, France and Italy followed close behind.


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