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Netherlands sixth on world list of asylum countries

Just over 32,000 applicants in 2001

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

GENEVA, Switzerland - The Netherlands ranks sixth on the list of nations dealing with refugees applications. The list is made up of 28 industrialized nations. Last year, just over 32,000 people applied for refugee status in the Netherlands, a sharp drop however from the nearly 44,000 refugees who entered the country in 2000. According to recent figures released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers, approximately 557,000 people applied for refugee status in one of the 28 countries listed by the UNHCR. The number of refugees arriving in the member states of the European Union last year topped 356,000.

Germany tops the list, followed by Great Britain, the United States, France and Canada. Most of the 2001 refugees came from Afghanistan and Iraq. The numbers of refugees from Afghanistan since have dwindled considerably and the UNHCR notes that many Afghans who earlier had fled to Europe and beyond are now returning home.

In the first three months of this year, 6,300 people came to the Netherlands as refugees. Last year, that number stood at 9,600 during the same period..

Lubbers recently called on European leaders to invest more in UNHCR programs that are helping hundreds of thousands of refugees to return and stay home. According to the former premier, European leaders should recognize the value of focusing on the problem of displacement at the source through a well-funded and effective UNHCR. In less than four months, the refugee agency has helped nearly one million Afghans return to their devastated homeland.