Monday, June 21, 2010

Zimbabwe: Nationals Top World List of Asylum Seekers

ZIMBABWEANS top the list of people seeking asylum abroad with 158 200 people fleeing political and economic turmoil last year.

The figures released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR) are the clearest indication yet that the formation of a unity government in February last year has done little to change Zimbawe's situation.

President Robert Mugabe and his former arch rivals Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as well as Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara formed an inclusive government with promises to encourage millions of economic refugees scattered all over the world to return home.

Tsvangirai even embarked on a foreign trip where he sought to convince those in the diaspora to come back home.

But according to the findings of the 2009 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons report there is little to suggest that Zimbabweans are prepared to return home.

During the period under review, Zimbabwean asylum seekers were three times more than the next country on the list, Burma or Myanmar, which has 48 600 people seeking asylum.

Burma is followed by war-torn Eritrea with 43 300 asylum seekers, Ethiopia (42 500) and Colombia (39 200).

The number of asylum seekers from strife-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia were completely dwarfed by that from Zimbabwe.

The UNCHR's report released on Tuesday says nine out of 10 Zimbabwean asylum claims were lodged in South Africa alone.

"South Africa remains the main destination for new asylum claims worldwide with more than 222 000 asylum claims registered in 2009 -- almost as many as were lodged in the 27 member states of the European Union," the report said.

"Zimbabweans accounted for two thirds of all claims submitted in 2009 (149 500 applications)."

However, the Zimbabweans are not guaranteed that their applications would be successful as South Africa also has the highest number of people still waiting for a decision on their requests for asylum.

The number of undecided cases at the first instance and on appeal stood at 309 800.

Unofficial estimates put the number of Zimbabweans living in South Africa at more than three million.

The majority of them do not have proper papers making it difficult for authorities to properly document the level of migration.

Hundreds of thousands of others escaped the economic crisis to neighbouring countries as well as the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia among other Western countries.

The unity government, despite succeeding in reversing the hyperinflation of 2008 and stabilising the economy after a decade of decline, has done little to inspire confidence among Zimbabweans with continuous power struggles.

In contrast, the UNCHR report says 635 people applied for asylum in Zimbabwe in 2009.

The country had 3 995 refugees from other countries and it is the third country after the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan hosting the largest number of refugees in relation to its economic capacity with 245 refugees per US$ GDP (PPP).

Pakistan has 745 and DRC 592.

No comments: