Drop in SL asylum seekers says UNHCR

Wednesday, 30 March 2011 00:24 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The number of asylum-seekers from countries including Sri Lanka seeking to live in the industrialised world continues to fall, a latest report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement.

Accordingly, it is now almost half the level it was a decade ago, the UNHCR said in its annual snapshot of asylum trends.

Sri Lankan ranks last among leading countries of origin of asylum-seekers including Afghanistan, China, Iraq, Russia, Somalia, Iran, Pakistan and Nigeria.

The UNHCR in 2010 said Sri Lankans originating from the north of the country are no longer in need of international protection under broader refugee criteria or complementary forms of protection solely on the basis of risk of indiscriminate harm.

‘In light of the improved human rights and security situation in Sri Lanka, there is no longer a need for group-based protection mechanisms or for a presumption of eligibility for Sri Lankans of Tamil ethnicity originating from the north of the country’, the UNHCR 2010 report stated.

The UN agency also stated that Sri Lanka has experienced ‘significant political developments’ during the first half of 2010. It adds, ‘some areas of the north such as Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts that had previously been under the control of the LTTE for decades are now governed by the central authorities.’ UNHCR also notes the establishment of ‘a truth and reconciliation commission mandated to examine the “lessons to be learnt from events” between February 2002 and May 2009’.

The latest UNHCR report finds that 358,800 applications for asylum were lodged last year in 44 developed countries – a drop of 5 per cent on the 2009 figures and about 42 per cent below the levels of 2001, when nearly 620,000 applications were made.

Unveiling the report, High Commissioner António Guterres said the global dynamics of asylum had changed in recent years.

Serbia – including Kosovo – provided the biggest number of asylum-seekers in 2010, with 28,900 claims lodged, compared to only 18,800 the previous year.

UNHCR said the sharp rise was probably due to the European Union’s December 2009 decision to grant visa-free entry to holders of Serbian passports.

Within the developed world, the United States was the biggest recipient of asylum claims, with 55,500 lodged last year, due in part to an increase in applications from Chinese and Mexicans. France was second, with 47,800 claims, drawn largely from Serbian, Russian and Congolese asylum-seekers. Germany, Sweden and Canada rounded out the top five recipient nations.