The numbers of asylum seekers trying to enter wealthy countries dropped last year, especially in southern Europe where the flow mainly from Africa or Asia fell by a third, the UN refugee agency said yesterday.
Fresh data showed that 358,800 people applied for asylum in 44 industrialized countries last year, about 5 percent less than in 2008 or in 2009 and more than 40 percent less than a decade ago.
It was the fourth-lowest total recorded over the past decade.
“The global dynamics of asylum are changing,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres said.
Just a “handful” of industrialized nations had experienced an increase, he said.
“We need to study the root causes to see if the decline is because of fewer push factors in the areas of origin, or tighter migration control in countries of asylum,” he added in a statement.
More than two-thirds of the asylum seekers headed for the EU, but the data revealed shifting patterns in both the destinations and the countries of origin.
The biggest decrease was recorded around Europe’s Mediterranean coastline in Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Turkey, the UNHCR said.
The numbers registered there fell 33 percent last year and were less than half the peak of 74,400 asylum claims recorded three years ago — despite an 18 percent rise in Turkey.
Registrations fell 94 percent in Malta, 53 percent in Italy and 36 percent in Greece. All three countries have sought to clamp down on a large influx of migrants mainly by boat from Africa or the Middle East in recent years.
However, they increased substantially in Germany (49 percent), Sweden (32 percent), Denmark (30 percent), and Australia and New Zealand combined (31 percent).
About 8,600 people sought asylum in the latter two countries, overwhelmingly in Australia (up 33 percent).
Nonetheless, that was still down more than a third from 2001, and well below other industrialized countries: Australia placed at 15 on the list of asylum receiving industrialized countries last year, the report said.
The US remained the largest single destination for new asylum seekers, with an estimated 55,500, last year, increasing by 6,500. One-third of them were from China, while Mexicans were the next biggest group.
France was the second-most favored asylum destination with 47,800 applicants, a 13 percent increase mainly from Georgia, Bangladesh and Haiti; followed by Germany with 41,300, mainly from the Balkans.
Completing the top five were Germany, Sweden and Canada: Together, these five countries accounted for more than half, or 56 percent, of all asylum applications, the report said.
The UNHCR data showed that Serbians, especially from Kosovo, represent the largest single group of applicants with 28,900 overall, followed by a declining number of Afghans and more Chinese asylum seekers.
The number of Iraqis — some of whom have faced deportation from northern Europe over the past year — and Somalis has dropped.
European governments, especially Italy and France, have braced for a surge in immigration this year because of the unrest in North Africa, especially from Tunisia and Libya.
Guterres said that developing countries still carried “the lion’s share of responsibility for hosting refugees.
“Despite their many other challenges, countries like Liberia, Tunisia and Egypt have kept their borders open to people in need. I call upon all countries to support them,” Guterres said.
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,