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September 19, 2019

Asylum requests down in developed countries: OECD


September 19, 2019

PARIS: Developed countries received sharply fewer asylum applications last year, a report said on Wednesday, as the world remains gripped in a migrant crisis fuelled by wars and economic hardship.

Applications for asylum in the 36-country Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) dropped 34 percent to 1.09 million last year from 1.65 million at the height of the migrant flow to Europe in 2016.

"Because of the drop in asylum applications, the number of registered refugees also declined" from about 900,000 permits issued in 2016 to 700,000 in 2017, said the OECD. Refugees represented 14 percent of permanent migrants to the OECD last year, the report said. Most were from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Venezuela.

Despite the decline in asylum seekers, humanitarian migration remained at a "historically high level", said the bloc, whose members are from Europe, the Americas and the Pacific -- many of them key migrant destinations.

"While it is not the main channel of immigration to any OECD country... it is the second-largest channel of migration to Austria, Germany, Sweden and the United States." The report said OECD members received 5.3 million new permanent migrants in 2018, a two-percent rise over 2017, mainly due to families joining a growing number of expat workers.

There was also a rise of 11 percent in the number of temporary workers to about 4.9 million in 2017, the latest year for which data was available. Migration has been a key issue for figures including US President Donald Trump, Italian ex-interior minister Matteo Salvini and French far-right leader Marine le Pen, with many countries seeing a sharp shift to the right ascribed partly to anti-immigrant sentiment.

"In a number of countries, a common public perception is that migration is uncontrolled and costly," the OECD said. While there was "little evidence to support these views," it would be a mistake to ignore people’s migration fears, the report warned.

The report expressed concern that people tend to confuse illegal and lawful movements, and to view all migration as driven by indigence, it said. It said communication needs to be improved, noting a recent European study found that 60 percent of respondents did not feel they were well informed about immigration and integration.

"And EU respondents, on average, overestimate the number of migrants from outside Europe by a factor of two," it said, adding half thought, wrongly, that there were more illegal migrants than legal ones.

Last year, the United States was the main destination for asylum seekers in the OECD, with 254,000 applications, a drop of 23.3 percent. Germany was second with 162,000 applications, and Turkey in third place with 83,000.

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