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The top five asylum receiving countries in 2010 were the United States, France, Germany, Sweden and Canada. - File Photo

ISLAMABAD: More than 10,000 Pakistanis (10,825 to be exact) filed applications for asylum in 44 countries last year. However, this year there has been a 4 per cent decline in the trend, taking the country to the eighth spot in terms of number of asylum seekers.

According to a report of the UN refugee agency, 11,287 Pakistanis sought asylum in industrialised countries in 2009. But the country's share vis-a -vis the total number of asylum seekers remained 3.1 per cent.

A total of 358,800 asylum applications were lodged in industrialised countries in 2010, which was 5 per cent fewer than in 2009. According to the data published in 'Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialised Countries, 2010', by UNHCR on Monday, 6388 Pakistanis filed applications during July-December period as compared to 4,437 in January-June period.

Greece received the highest number of applications for asylum from Pakistanis, totalling 2748, followed by United Kingdom (2,115), France (890), Italy (814), United States (551), Canada (492), Australia (433), Austria (276), Ireland (200), South Korea (129), Switzerland (92), Japan (83), Spain (63) and the Netherlands ((60).

New countries where Pakistani nationals have filed asylum applications include Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, Denmark, Hungary, Malta, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Serbia (excluding Kosovo), Slovakia, Macedonia and Turkey.

UNHCR defines an asylum seeker as an individual who has sought international protection and whose claim for refugee status has not been determined. A person is considered a refugee if he or she fulfils criteria set out in the 1951 Refugee Convention, explains UNHCR.

In its report, the UN agency did not discuss circumstances which led people to seek asylum in industrialised countries. For Pakistanis, security situation, unemployment, poor economic conditions, lack of facilities and social injustices could be the main factors behind their decision to seek asylum in other countries.

The top five countries in this regard were Serbia (28,901), Afghanistan (24,769), China (21,645), Iraq (20,129) and Russian Federation (18,924).

New figures compiled in the report have shown a dramatic fall in the number of asylum seekers in industrialised world over the last 10 years. A total of 358,800 asylum applications were lodged in industrialised countries in 2010, which was 5 per cent fewer than in 2009.

The top five asylum receiving countries in 2010 were the United States, France, Germany, Sweden and Canada. Together, they accounted for 56 per cent of all asylum applications.

UNHCR says it needs to study the root causes to see if the decline is because of fewer push factors in areas of origin or tighter migration control in countries of asylum.