23 March 2010: UNHCR tonight released a new report showing that an estimated 377,200 people fled persecution in their homelands to seek asylum in industrialized countries during 2009.
While the total number of asylum claims made in 44 industrialized countries remained stable compared to 2008, regional disparities were highlighted by the report. The number of asylum-seekers in Australia and New Zealand increased by 30 per cent during 2009 (6,500 claims) compared to the previous year (5,000). It is primarily in Australia that the increase occurred with 6,200 claims, up 29 per cent from 2008.
New Zealand received 340 claims in 2009, an increase on the 250 claims made in 2008, but still extremely small in global terms and broadly consistent with levels received in the past five years (an average of 300 new claims per year).
Globally, Afghans topped the list of asylum applicants, with 26,800 submissions, representing a 45 per cent increase over 2008. Afghan asylum-seekers are now, for the first time since 2001, the largest group seeking asylum in industrialized countries.
“The new figures clearly show that conflict and human insecurity in places of origin are the key reasons why people flee their homes to seek protection further afield”, said UNHCR Regional Representative Richard Towle today.
Overall, the report ranks New Zealand 30th of the industrialized countries receiving asylum applications.
The countries receiving the largest number of asylum claims were the United States with 49,000, France (42,000), Canada (33,300), the United Kingdom (29,800), and Germany (27,600), demonstrating that the vast majority of asylum-seekers continue to seek protection in Europe and North America.
“UNHCR hopes that the report will serve to increase awareness of regional and global trends,” Towle said.
“While New Zealand is geographically distant from the world’s major conflict areas and so receives few asylum-seekers, it is important that it continues to play its role in sharing the international burden of refugee protection, as it has through its long history of fair asylum processing and its generous refugee resettlement programme.”