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- Must realize the seriousness

While there are fewer and fewer Afghans coming to Norway, the number of Iraqi refugees is increasing.


[refugees] While the number of Afghan asylum seekers has declined over the past two years, the number of Iraqis seeking refuge in Norway is increasing. Figures from the Directorate of Foreign Affairs (UDI) show that in 2006, 1002 Iraqi asylum seekers came to this country, against 673 the year before. In comparison, for example, 632 applications came from Somalis and 224 from Afghans in 2006. Preliminary figures for the first four months indicate that the number of Iraqis seeking refuge here this year is even greater than last year.

- We saw an increase from the second half of 2006 and this has persisted in 2007, the Iraqis are now the largest group we have, says department director for asylum at the UDI, Karl Erik Sjøholt.

The UDI has not yet considered it necessary to provide protection to the Iraqis on a general basis, but emphasizes that everyone should receive individual treatment and be assessed based on the situation they are in and where they are from in their home country.

- We always assess the individual case against the place of origin. We are aware that the situation in Iraq is serious, but some areas, such as northern Iraq, are calmer, Sjøholt explains.

The increase in the number of Iraqi asylum seekers in Norway reflects an international trend, the situation in Iraq is now rising as a major supplier of refugees. According to new figures from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Iraq is one of the reasons why the world's refugee population is increasing for the first time in five years. Most of the Iraqi refugees settle in neighboring Syria and Jordan.

- The international community must realize two things, firstly, they must open their eyes to this crisis. Secondly, they must acknowledge that Syria and Jordan have assumed a great burden here, says Laurens Jolles, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Syria.

He hopes to resettle 7500 out of the well over 1,4 millions of Iraqis who have come to Syria in a third country during the year, on quotas industrialized countries have said they are willing to accept. These are vulnerable refugees, victims of torture or sexual abuse, and those in need of special medical treatment. The UN High Commissioner can ask Norway to accept some of these refugees as quota refugees. Norway stated its willingness earlier this year to receive Iraqi refugees on a quota. ?

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