More Afghan, Somali refugees
Geneva -The number of asylum claims filed by Afghans and Somalis in mainly western nations soared during the first half of 2009 due to worsening security conditions there, the UN refugee agency said on Wednesday.
Applications for refugee status made by Afghans in 44 industrialised nations soared 81% to 12 011 while those filed by Somalis increased by 42% to 11 107, compared to the first six months of 2008, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.
"Security conditions continue to deteriorate in large parts of their home countries," the UNHCR added in a statement.
Iraqi asylum requests down
Meanwhile, Iraqis remained the nationality that filed the most number of claims, but their numbers fell by a third.
Some 13 200 asylum applications were filed by Iraqis during the first six months of this year, down 32% from 19 497 claims filed in the first half of 2008.
"These statistics show that ongoing violence and instability in some parts of the world force increasing numbers of people to flee and seek protection in safe countries," High Commissioner Antonio Guterres said.
"There is an acute need for countries to keep their asylum doors wide open to those who are in genuine need of international protection," he added.
In all, the total number of asylum claims climbed 10% to 185 550, the UNHCR said in its half year review of asylum trends.
The United States remained the most popular host country, receiving about 13% of all applications during the period.
France was the second biggest recipient nation with about 10% of all claims, followed by Canada.