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Sharp drop in asylum applications to Sweden

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14:03 CET+01:00
Fewer people are seeking asylum in Sweden, with the number of applications dropping 33 percent last year, according to new statistics.

"During 2008, 24,342 persons sought asylum in Sweden, which is a decrease of 11,865 applications compared to 2007," Statistics Sweden (SCB) said in a statement on Friday.

Two-thirds of applicants were men and one-third were women, a common proportion since 2000, it added.

Over 100 nationalities were represented among the asylum seekers. The largest group was Iraqis who accounted for a quarter of applications.

However, SCB noted that the number of Iraqi asylum seekers was down dramatically.

"Iraqis represented over half of the applications in 2007," it said.

The second-largest group was Somalis, with 14 percent of applications.

Sweden, which has in recent years taken in more Iraqis than any other Western country, tightened its asylum policy in 2007, ruling it could legally send people back to that country as well as to other conflict-ridden areas, such as parts of Somalia and Afghanistan.

Immigration authorities ruled in 2007 that "there is no armed conflict in Iraq" and that it was therefore acceptable to repatriate Iraqi citizens.

Asylum seekers from Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan now must prove they are personally threatened at home to be given asylum in Sweden.

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