Number of asylum seekers in West stable, belies myth: UN

Tue Mar 23, 2010 12:01pm GMT

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - The number of people seeking asylum in the West last year remained stable, shattering the myth that there is a flood of people trying to reach rich countries, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.

Some 377,200 people claiming to flee conflict or persecution applied for asylum in 2009, only 100 more than the previous year, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

"The notion that there is a flood of asylum seekers into richer countries is a myth," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

"Despite what some populists claim, our data shows that the numbers have remained stable," added the former Portuguese prime minister who heads the Geneva-based agency.

The annual report covers 44 industrialised countries including the 27 European Union (EU) member states, Australia, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.

It found significant disparities at regional and country level, but had no information on percentages of claims accepted.

The EU registered the bulk of claims with 246,200 last year, a 3 percent rise from 2008, the UNHCR said. Increases were highest in the 12 "new" EU member states which are mostly in central and eastern Europe.

The Nordic region recorded a 13 percent increase in applications with 51,100 requests, the highest in six years.   Continued...

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