Geneva, 28 March 2011: Serbia was the top country of origin for asylum seekers in 2010, sending more applicants to the industrialized world than Afghanistan and Iraq.

While the total number of asylum seekers in the industrialized world decreased by five per cent compared to 2009, the number of Serbian asylum seekers, which includes individuals from Kosovo, increased by 54 per cent, according to a report from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, released on Monday.

Serbia was responsible for 28,900 applications, or eight per cent of the global total, and moved up the rankings from 2009, when it ranked sixth. The number of asylum applications in 2010 was similar to 2001, soon after the Kosovo conflict. The last time Serbia was at the top of the list was in 2005, when close to 25,000 citizens sought asylum in the industrialized world.

A total of 358,800 asylum applications were lodged in industrialized countries in 2010.

With 55,530 applications in 2010, the US was the largest recipient country. France maintained its second-place position with 47,800 applications, followed by Germany (41,330).

Both France and Germany recorded an increase in applications partly due to a rise in asylum-seekers from Serbia and Macedonia, which saw waves of citizens leave the country after the visa-free regime came into effect in December 2009, the report said.

Among the major source countries, significant increases were registered from Macedonia (+599%), which moved up in the rankings from 62nd in 2009 to 14th place in 2010, registering the highest relative increase of all the sending states.

Like Serbia, the increase in the number of Macedonian applicants is largely attributed to the EU visa-free regime put into place in December 2009.

The highest number of Serbian asylum seekers submitted applications in Sweden, where the number of petitions quadrupled, and France and Germany. The number of Serbian applicants decreased in Austria and Hungary compared to 2009.

While not all states kept separate statistics of asylum seekers from Serbia and from Kosovo, those countries that did distinguish the applicants- four-fifths of the receiving states- reported that on average 45 per cent of applicants from Serbia came from Kosovo. That figure was 74 per cent in 2009.

Among the main receiving countries, the proportion of Kosovars is highest in France (88 per cent), Austria (64 per cent), and Belgium (60 per cent).

Serbia was followed in the rankings by Afghanistan (24,800 claims), China (21,600), Iraq (20,100), and the Russian Federation (18,900).

Slightly less than half of all asylum claims were submitted by individuals originating from Asia (45%). Africa was the second most important source continent (25% of all claims), followed by Europe (19%), and the Americas (8%).

The receiving states in the UNHCR report, referred to as the 44 industrialized countries, include the EU member states, the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, and the Balkan countries, among others. In the report, the UN noted that developing countries receive greater numbers of refugees than the industrialized world.

Source: UNHCR