Citizens from Serbia and Kosovo are ranked 4th in terms of the number of asylum seekers in the 44 industrialized countries, UNHCR report says.
A total of 21,200 people from Serbia plus Kosovo in 2011 requested asylum in other countries, which ranked them fourth on the global list after Afghanistan, China and Iraq, a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, said.
The survey included Serbia with Kosovo on the basis of UN Resolution 1244 of 1999, since Kosovo is still not recognised as a state by the United Nations.
According to UN definition, an asylum seeker is an individual who has sought international protection and whose claim for refugee status has not been determined yet.
As industrialised countries the UNHCR included the 27 EU member states plus Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Montenegro, Serbia, Norway, Macedonia, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the US.
In 2011, these countries received around 441,300 asylum applications.
The report says that this “year was characterized by a significant number of people seeking asylum or refugee status from countries experiencing recent or ongoing conflict, turmoil or security concern”.
In 2010, the UN reported 29,600 asylum seekers coming from Serbia and Kosovo, which was 50 per cent up on the 2009 figure.
According to the UNHCR report, the main reason for the increase in the number of asylum seekers lies in the fact that the European Union from December 19, 2009, allowed visa-free entry for holders of Serbian passports.
In 2011, Serbia and Kosovo dropped to fourth place with 21,200 registered claims during the year, a decrease of 28 per cent.
The drop was particularly noticeable in France and Sweden when compared to 2010.
When it comes to destinations, Serbian citizens picked Germany first in 2011 with around 6,000 claims for asylum.
The report says evidence shows that the proportion of asylum seekers from Kosovo in these countries has fallen over the past three years.
In 2009 around 74 per cent of applicants from Serbia came from Kosovo, but in 2011 the percentage was down to 41. Most citizens of Kosovo pick France, Austria and Belgium as their destinations.
Other Balkan countries were ranked significantly lower compared to Serbia and Kosovo. In 2011 around 5,607 people from Macedonia sought asylum while Albania produced 3,330 and Bosnia and Herzegovina around 2,730 asylum-seekers.
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