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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: February 2011

Introduction

Summary

Introduction

It is perhaps trite to note that one of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time is the plight of those who seek asylum from severe human rights abuse amounting to persecution. The latest annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) indicates that there are 42 million people who are uprooted in the world today. Amongst this staggering total of “people of concern” to the UNHCR are some 15.2 million refugees including 872,000 asylum seekers with pending cases. The UNHCR further estimates that in 2008 some 839,000 individual applications were submitted for refugee status and that 9 percent of those claims were made at UNHCR offices.

It is worth noting that the number of asylum seekers making individual claims for refugee status in 2008 rose for a second year in row, up by 28 percent, and that the Republic of South Africa was the largest single recipient of individual refugee status claims estimated at the incredible number of some 207,000 applications. The United States of America came in a distant second, with 49,600 refugee status claims, a mere one-quarter of the number that were received by South Africa. France, with 35,400 claims, and Sudan, with 35,100 claims, came in at third and fourth respectively. It is also interesting to point out that the Federal Republic of Germany was the only country in the Global North to be listed as a major refugee-hosting country in 2008 with 582,700 refugees.

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