Asylum claims in “industrialized” countries were up 17% during the first half of 2011, according to the United Nations:
An estimated 198,300 asylum applications were recorded during the first six months of 2011 in the 44 countries included in this report. This is 17 per cent more than during the same period 2010 (169,300), and is nearly identical to the number of applications recorded during the second half of 2010 (197,600).
Applications in North America were up 25% and the U.S. received more asylum seekers than any other country (36,400). The second most popular receiving country was France (26,100), followed by Germany (20,100), Sweden (12,600), and the United Kingdom (12,200).
The top five “source” countries for asylum seekers for the first half of 2011 were: Afghanistan (15,300), China (11,700), Serbia and Kosovo (10,300), Iraq (10,100), and Iran (7,600).
Asylum seekers from countries experiencing the Arab Spring are up, but not as significantly as European leaders had feared. According to the UN:
The highest relative increase was recorded for Tunisian citizens whose asylum claims increased from 410 to more than 4,600, primarily in the number of arrivals in Italy by boat. The first half of 2011 saw more Tunisians lodging asylum claims than during the entire period from 2004 to 2010 put together. Similarly, there was a major increase in asylum applications lodged by Libyan citizens, with 2,000 claims during the first half of 2011 compared to only 800 during the whole of 2010.
While these increases are large in percentage terms (according to my–probably questionable–math, Tunisian claims are up by more than 1,100%), the relative numbers are not all that dramatic. Perhaps this demonstrates that when people have an outlet for their political aspirations, they tend to remain in their home countries. As the Arab Spring grinds along in countries like Syria and Yemen, we can expect those countries to produce greater numbers of asylum seekers–When people have no hope and when governments murder their citizens instead of listen to them, people have no choice but to flee to safer lands.