Geneva, Switzerland (Genevalunch) – Political turmoil in Afghanistan and Somalia increased the number of asylum seekers in 2008 for the second year running, according to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Iraq provided the largest number of applicants for asylum, 40,500, a 10 percent decrease from 2007.
Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria all showed significant increases from the previous year.
The US is the main destination of asylum seekers from all nationalities. European Union countries, however, accept 2.4 asylum seekers per inhabitant while the US accepts only 1 per inhabitant.
The number of industrialized countries receiving applications for asylum also increased by 50 percent. This is possibly a symptom of stricter asylum policies in traditional asylum states. Sweden tightened its policies resulting in a 67 percent decrease in asylum applicants while applications to neighboring Finland and Norway tripled and quadrupled respectively.