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UNHCR RSD grows steadily in 2004, while applications to governments decline

June 29, 2005

UNHCR reported receiving at least 75,000 RSD applications in 2004, a 23 percent increase from 2003. This was UNHCR’s second straight year of RSD growth, reversing previous declines, and the largest number of reported applications to UN offices since 1998.

Most of the growth was in the Middle East and Africa, although UNHCR’s large RSD office in Malaysia saw steady growth as well.

While applications to UNHCR were increasing, asylum applications in general declined 19 percent, following a 15 percent decline in 2003. Most of that decline was in wealthy states of Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand. UNHCR reported earlier this year: “In 50 industrialized countries, the number of asylum requests fell by 22 percent … in 2004.”

UNHCR received more individual refugee applications than any single government in 2004. France received the most asylum applications of any government (58,500), followed by the United Kingdom (40,200), Germany (35,600), South Africa (32,600) and the United States (27,900).

Despite the growth of UNHCR RSD, regional differences produce contrasting global trends. In much of the Western hemisphere and Europe UNHCR RSD is not a major issue, but it is widespread elsewhere.

Globally, UNHCR RSD represented just 11 percent of all asylum applications. Yet 528,000 of 676,000 asylum applications were in Europe or the Americas, where UNHCR RSD is rare. UNHCR handles around half of all asylum applications in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

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