Asylum seekers surge from world’s war zones

Around 24,000 people sought asylum in Sweden in 2006 - a rise of almost 40 percent compared to 2005.

Figures obtained by news agency TT revealed that the world’s wars and conflicts, and even their month-by-month developments, are clearly reflected in the increase.

“When there is concern in a country, more people are inclined to flee, or to leave nearby countries that they have already escaped to,” said Krister Isaksson, forecast analyst at the Swedish Board of Migration.

In 2005 some 17,530 asylum seekers came to Sweden. But as the board’s statisticians tallied up the figures before leaving for the New Year holiday last week, a total of 23,869 people had sought asylum in Sweden in 2006. The predicted total for the year of 22,000 was exceeded in October.

Iraqis accounted for more than the entire increase on the year before. In 2005 there were 2,330 refugees from Iraq but in 2006 that rose to 8,706. Compared to other European countries, Sweden has taken in a large number of Iraqi asylum seekers as they gravitate towards family and friends who have already taken refuge here.

Another group which has increased dramatically is Somalis: 1,027 arrived in 2006 compared to 422 the year before. The number of asylum seekers from Somalia rose during the tensions in July and August when the Islamic Courts Union gained control of large parts of the country. But the flow peaked during December as war broke out again.

The number of Lebanese people fleeing to Sweden rose significantly too, to 661 last year. In this case too, the figures peaked as Israeli forces attacked the country. Increased difficulties in Afghanistan were also reflected in a rise in asylum seekers coming to Sweden.

Another contributing factor was the temporary asylum amnesty which ran from November 2005 until the ned of March 2006. People who had been denied residence permits were able to have their cases heard again.