The overall number of asylum-seekers in industrialised nations was stable in 2009, the UNHCR annual report, released Tuesday, shows.
"The notion that there is a flood of asylum-seekers into richer countries is a myth," said António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The number of asylum-seekers last year remained the same as in 2008 at 377,000 applications, the UN body's statistics show. This was despite regional disparities highlighted by the report:
- Nearly half of the 377,000 applicants came from Asia and the Middle East (45 per cent), followed by Africa (29 per cent), Europe (15.5 per cent) and the Americas (nine per cent);
- Application demands in northern Europe increased by 13 per cent. By contrast, the number of applications in southern Europe went down by 33 per cent, with spectacular reductions of over 40 per cent in Italy and Turkey;
- France saw a 19 per cent hike in asylum applications in 2009, with increasing claims from Serbs most of whom came from Kosovo;
- Afghans topped the list of asylum applicants seeking to settle in the west; Iraqis and Somalis came second and third respectively; the United States remained the most sought destination country for the fourth year in a row.