In the 1990s, rising numbers of asylum applications from the Balkans grabbed the attention of politicians and citizens across Europe. As a result, individual countries made it more difficult for migrants to claim asylum, and the European Union has harmonized the asylum process so Member States can better determine responsibility for asylum applicants.
This year, however, the asylum story was about a decrease in first-time applications — a 22 percent drop between 2003 and 2004, according to a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report in March 2005. The cumulative fall since 2001 amounts to 40 percent.
In some countries, the decline since 2000 was particularly sharp: 87 percent in Slovenia, 78 percent in the Netherlands, 76 percent in Australia, 74 percent in Denmark, 63 percent in New Zealand, and 59 percent in the United Kingdom.
The trend was not limited to Europe. Between 2003 and 2004, the United States and Canada recorded a 26 percent decrease, and Australia and New Zealand a 28 percent drop.
The reasons for the decline include new restrictive policies in Switzerland, Denmark, and the UK designed to discourage asylum applicants, as well as interception-at-sea tactics of the United States, Australia, and Italy (see Issue #7).
On a more positive note, the pool of people needing protection has shrunk. Refugees and internally displaced people in Africa and Asia — including Afghanistan, Angola, Liberia, and Sierra Leone — have been able to return home.
For more information, please see the following articles:
• Analyzing Asylum Applications
• Drop in Asylum Numbers Shows Changes in Demand and Supply
• EU Sees Sharp Drop in Asylum Applications
• Troubled Waters: Rescue of Asylum Seekers and Refugees at Sea
• The U.S. Refugee Program in Transition
• Reconstructing Afghanistan: Lessons for Post-War Iraq?
• Switzerland Faces Common European Challenges
• United Kingdom: Rising Numbers, Rising Anxieties
• Austria: A Country of Immigration?
• Colombia: In the Crossfire
• Georgia Looks West, But Faces Migration Challenges at Home
• Jordan: A Refugee Haven
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