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More asylum-seekers in Egypt, Malaysia, Cameroon, while UNHCR backlogs shrink in Pakistan and Yemen

February 28, 2005

UNHCR has released its report on refugee status determination trends for the first three quarters of 2004 (available at www.unhcr.ch/statistics; “Trends in Refugee Status Determination 1 January – 30 September 2004”). The report is less complete than UNHCR’s annual statistical overviews, but reveals some trends about major UNHCR refugee status determination (RSD) operations in several countries.

Malaysia, UNHCR’s largest refugee status determination site in 2003 saw an apparent increase in the rate of applications in 2004. The UNHCR office in Malaysia received 14,747 refugee claims in all of 2003, and received 14,202 in just the first nine months of 2004. UNHCR reported that the number of pending applications for protection from Myanmar climbed 21 percent in the first three quarters of 2004. Note also RSDWatch.org’s refugee protection updates from Malaysia which illustrate current alarm about a Malaysian government crackdown on migrants.

UNHCR’s office in Egypt may be experiencing a similar growth. Egypt had been UNHCR’s largest RSD operation from 2000 through 2002, but new applications had been dropping steadily from more than 15,000 in 2000 to fewer than 7,000 in 2003. That downward trend appears to be finished. By 30 September 2004, UNHCR-Egypt had nearly equaled the number of new applications it received in all of 2003, with 6,392 new applications for protection. Nearly 90 percent of these asylum-seekers were Sudanese. Somali applications in Egypt continued to decline, with just 280 new applications through 30 September.

Cameroon’s UNHCR office received more applications in just nine months in 2004 than in all of 2003. UNHCR-Cameroon received 1,668 new refugee applications through 30 September 2004, compared to 1,356 in 2003. Asylum-seekers from the Central African Republic accounted for more than half of the new applications in Cameroon.

In Pakistan, the number of pending RSD cases at UNHCR declined 37 percent, a result mainly of a 40 percent decline in the number of pending Afghan refugee claims. In 2003, Pakistan’s UNHCR office received 5,779 applications for the year, but only 2,654 were submitted during the first nine months of 2004.

UNHCR’s office in Yemen reported a 21 percent decline in pending cases, although it is not clear if this reflects an actual decline in the number of asylum-seekers seeking protection there or an increase in UNHCR’s efficiency in processing them.

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