Worldwide, 866,000 new asylum claims were lodged last year — a 45 per cent increase from 2013, the highest level since 1992 at the beginning of the Balkan conflicts, said the United Nations report to be released in Geneva Thursday.
Syrians were by far the largest group among those seeking asylum in 2014, with 150,000 claims, or one-fifth of the total. Iraqis came second, accounting for 68,700 applications, double the number in 2013. Both countries are at war with Islamic State group extremists.
“In the 1990s, the Balkan wars created hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers. Many of them found refuge in industrialized countries. Today, the surge in armed conflicts around the world presents us with similar challenges,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.
“Our response has to be just as generous now as it was then — providing access to asylum, resettlement opportunities and other forms of protection for the people fleeing these terrible conflicts.”
In 2014, Canada received 13,500 asylum claims, about one-third more than the year before. In comparison, Sweden, a small Nordic country with 9.6 million people and a quarter of Canada’s population, admitted 75,100 refugees last year.
The increase of claims in Canada was attributed to the significant drop in 2013, after Ottawa overhauled the refugee determination system in a bid to deter fraud and discourage asylum seekers from coming here…story continues below…