Saturday, March 24, 2007

UN: Iraqis top list of asylum seekers in industrialized countries

About 2 million Iraqis have fled the bloodshed in their country since 2003, mainly to Syria and Jordan. An additional 1.7 million are believed to have been displaced within Iraq. Within Europe, most Iraqis have headed for Sweden, followed by the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Britain and Belgium.

GENEVA: Iraqis topped the list of asylum seekers in industrialized countries last year, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

Some 22,000 Iraqis applied for asylum in Europe, North America and other industrialized countries in 2006, the largest number of Iraqis since before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.

This represents a 77 percent increase on the previous year, but falls far short of the 50,000 Iraqis who filed asylum claims in industrialized countries in 2002, the last year before the invasion, according to UNHCR.

"We fear that the situation in Iraq is going to get worse before it gets better," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said.

Asylum figures would be even higher if Iraqis fleeing abroad were able to reach the West, said another spokesman, William Spindler.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

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