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Thousands of Iraqis granted Swedish asylum

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12:46 CET+01:00
Sweden granted protection to 8,700 asylum seekers in 2008, with Iraqis accounting for almost half the total, according to new figures from EU statistics office Eurostat.

Just four EU countries took in more asylum seekers than Sweden: France (11 500), Germany (10,700), the United Kingdom (10,200), and Italy (9,700).

Aside from almost 4,000 Iraqis, Sweden's other top recipients of asylum status were 1,540 Somalis and 655 Eritreans.

One in five successful asylum seekers across the European Union are Iraqis, the vast majority accepted by Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Some 16,600 Iraqis won the right to settle in the 27-nation bloc in 2008, the Eurostat agency said. At 22 percent, that was far and away the biggest group among 76,300 people considered at risk if they returned to their countries.

Somalia furnished the next largest number, 9,500, followed by 7,400 Russians, 5,000 Afghans and 4,600 people from Eritrea in the Horn of Africa.

Italy was the most welcoming to the Somalis, while Poland was the preferred destination for the Russians.

The figures, published ahead of UN Human Rights Day on Thursday, showed that decisions were made on 209,200 cases, with a third going to appeal.

Two thirds of all successful applicants were taken in by France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Sweden, with Austria and the Netherlands also taking in more than 5,000 applicants each.

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