OF all the migrant trends, the battle with the Mediterranean sea is the most documented, as tens of thousands of Africans attempt the dangerous crossing mainly from North Africa into Europe.
The number of deaths—3,500 people drowned last year from the 218,000 who made the journey—has not deterred the migrants, giving rise to the unfounded perception that Europe is in danger of being overrun.
But, contrary to popular perception, no single African country ranks among the top three by origin of asylum applications submitted in 44 industrialised countries that regularly report their statistics, a new report from the UN’s Refugee Agency shows.
The highest number of asylum applications were received from Syria, the UNHCR’s Asylum Trends 2014 shows, with Iraq and Afghanistan rounding out the leading three.
An estimated 866,000 applications were received in the 44 countries, which include the European Union and the United States; the second highest ever since 1992, when 900,000 applications were lodged.
Germany had the highest claims received, with every fifth asylum request made to it. The US, Turkey, Sweden and Italy round out the top five receiving countries.
We picked out some seven African trends from the report, some of which are surprising.
1—Eritrea had the highest number of asylum seekers of any African nation, with 48,000 applications registered in 2014. This was more than double the 22,300 claims made in 2013, with a steady increase over the last five years.The majority of its claims, nearly two thirds, were made to Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.
2—Italy is fronting a proposal to process asylum seekers, given many migrants have ended up at its doorstep. The number of new applications listed in Italy in 2014 was its highest on record, at 63,700. Most were a result of the “Arab Spring” in North Africa, but The Gambia, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal also accounted for the rise.
3—The Democratic Republic of Congo was the top country lodging asylum applications in France, with 5,200 applications, or one application for every 13,000 Congolese.
4—Nigeria submitted more applications for asylum to the 44 countries than Somalia last year. Some 22,069 Nigerians sought protection in the West, as compared to 19,857 Somalis. The trend is the same when only asylum applications to Europe are considered. The report is not clear if the rise is due to natural population size or the conflict in the northeast.
5— Egypt has had a challenging period since the ouster of long time leader Hosni Mubarak, but more Senegalese made protection requests last year than Egyptians, despite the former being seen as a stable African democracy. This was recorded at 6,807 Senegalese against 6,422 Egyptians. It is a change in trend over 2013; half that number of Senegalese made asylum requests, as compared to 9,715 Egyptians.
6—More Ghanaians also sought asylum in the West than Libyans over the last two years. This was 7,649 Ghanaians, to 6,529 Libyans, despite the North African country seemingly being ungovernable since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
7—Eastern and Southern African countries generally fall under the ‘other’ category, which contains only 42,664 of the 714,234 total applications made to the 44 countries. It could be something in the air.