Five Years Later: Remembering the Refugees

UNHCR says (pdf) that a five year decline in applications for asylum in developed countries turned around in 2007 because of Iraqis fleeing violence in their own home country.

The number of Iraqis lodging asylum claims in industrialized countries has almost doubled in 2007 compared to 2006 (from 22,900 to 45,200). The 2007 level was at the same time the fourth highest observed in the industrialized countries since 1990. The numbers have remained high throughout the year with quarterly figures ranging between 10,700 and 12,000.

This amounts to only about 1 percent of the total estimated number of Iraqis uprooted by violence–most are either internally displaced or in Syria and Jordan. Still, this increase in asylum applications is notable because most of the destination countries are in Europe, principally Sweden, France, the UK and Greece, where asylum is a hot-button political issue that is often lumped together with immigration controversies. If this trend continues, Iraqis fleeing for their lives may find little respite in Europe. They are already finding it difficult to come to the United States.

Five years on, the Iraqi refugee crisis remains one of the most critical humanitarian situations in the world.