Syria, Iraq Among Crises Driving Some 330,000 to Seek Refugee Status – UN Agency
Asylum-seekers and economic migrants take to the seas, waiting out the dangerous journey in the boat's cramped cargo
space. Photo: UNHCR/A. D'Amato
26 September 2014 – The number of people seeking refugee status in industrialized countries climbed again in 2014,
driven largely by the wars in Syria and Iraq, as well as conflict and instability in Afghanistan and Eritrea, according
to a new United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR
) study released today.
The agency’s new Asylum Trends
report says that, based on historical trends showing higher numbers of asylum-seekers in the second half of each year,
2014 could produce as many as 700,000 claims – which would make it the highest level in industrialized countries in 20
years, and a level not seen since the 1990s conflict in former Yugoslavia.
In a press release
, UNHCR said applications for refugee status in industrialized countries are just one element in the global picture of
forced displacement from wars and conflict, which number more than 51 million. Most remain either internally displaced
within their own countries.
“We are clearly into an era of growing conflict,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
“The global humanitarian system is already in great difficulty,” he said. “The international community needs to prepare
their populations for the reality that in the absence of solutions to conflict more and more people are going to need
refuge and care in the coming months and years. Unfortunately, it is not clear that the resources and the access to
asylum will be available to help them.”
According to the UNHCR report, which is based on data received from 44 governments in Europe, North America and parts of
the Asia-Pacific, said 330,700 people asked for refugee status in these 44 countries between the start of January and
the end of June.
The figure marks a rise of 24 percent from the same period a year earlier, and slightly higher than in the second half
of last year (328,100 claims). Overall, Syria was the main country of origin of people seeking asylum with a more than
two-fold increase (48,400 claims compared to 18,900 in the same period in 2013). Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of
people have become newly displaced this year, produced 21,300 asylum applications, followed by Afghanistan (19,300) and
Of the net overall increase in new claims shown in the report, more than two thirds of these were in just six countries
– Germany, the United States, France, Sweden, Turkey and Italy.
The report said Central Europe, in particular Hungary and Poland, as well as Australia saw declines in the numbers of
people asking to be accepted as refugees. Australia had just 4,600 claims (a 20 per cent fall from a year earlier),
while in Poland the number dropped to 3,300 (65 per cent lower) and in Hungary to 4,800 (58 per cent lower).
UNHCR publishes data on worldwide forced displacement in its annual Global Trends report. Reports on asylum in
industrialized countries are normally published twice annually.