03/18/2008, 00.00
IRAQ

Iraqis are the largest group seeking asylum in the West

This is revealed in a UN report for 2007, according to which their numbers are at 45,000. The most sought-after location is the United States, followed by Sweden. But Europe must do more.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) - On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the U.S. war on the regime of Saddam Hussein, the situation is not improving in Iraq, where the stream of emigrants continues to increase.  According to a recent report from the United Nations, in 2007 the largest group of people seeking asylum in industrialised countries were the Iraqis.  It is, sadly, the second year in a row that they have held first place.

More than 45,000 Iraqis have filled out asylum request forms, compared to 22,900 in 2006.  But they represent only 1.1% of the approximately 4.5 million Iraqis who have been made refugees by the war.  Among these, more than 2.5 million are internal refugees in Iraq, while the rest are distributed mainly between Syria and Jordan.

According to the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), the destination most requested by refugees of all nationalities is the United States, with 49,200 requests.  This is followed by Sweden, which, with 36,200 requests, has seen a 50% increase over the 24,300 requests in 2006.  The spike registered in this country, the report continues, is due mainly to the arrival of Iraqis.

The UNHCR calls for greater commitment on the part of Europe in sharing with Damascus and Amman the huge migratory flow from Iraq.  After Iraq, the nations from which the largest numbers of requests for asylum come are: Russia (18,000), China (17,100), Serbia (15,400) and Pakistan (14,300).

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