Zimbabwean asylum seekers top UN chart ahead of Somalia, Afghanistan

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A report released by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Tuesday reveal that Zimbabwe topped the charts by having more of its people seeking asylum in other countries in 2009.

The agency said 158 200 Zimbabweans sought asylum in other countries in 2009, the same year President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai formed their coalition government with promises to end political violence.

The fragile coalition parties went at great lengths urging Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to return home to help rebuild the shattered economy. But UN findings demonstrate how Zimbabweans do not have confidence in the future of their country.

According to the reports Zimbabwe is ranked ahead of strife-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia, which had significantly, lower numbers of citizens fleeing to foreign lands.

“By nationality, the highest number of new asylum claims was filed by individuals from Zimbabwe (158 200), Myanmar (48 600), Eritrea (43 300), Ethiopia (42 500), Colombia (39 200), Afghanistan (38 900) and Somalia (37 900),” said the UNCHR in its 2009 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons report.

UNCHR said about 95 percent of asylum applications from Zimbabwe were lodged in neighbouring South Africa, where scores of Zimbabweans were among at least 60 foreign immigrants killed during xenophobic violence in 2008.

Though there are no official figures of Zimbabwean immigrants living in South Africa estimates put the number at between two and three million or about a quarter of Zimbabwe’s total population of 12 million people.

Thousands more are scattered across southern Africa and further afield in Britain, United States and other Western countries after fleeing Zimbabwe’s political strife and economic turmoil blamed on Mugabe’s controversial rule.

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