The death of 58 presumed asylum seekers from Asia found inside an airtight refrigerated container at Dover Monday highlights the increasing flow of would-be immigrants from poor or developing countries into Western Europe.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the deaths demonstrated the need to eliminate the "evil trade" in would-be asylum seekers.
However Nick Hardwick of Britain's Refugee Council, a non-government organization that seeks to promote refugees' rights, said the problem was that "it is virtually impossible for people fleeing persecution to enter Britain legally" so that they are forced to resort to desperate measures.
One issue related to illegal immigration is human trafficking.
According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which opened a conference in Vienna on the subject Monday, trafficking in humans involves millions of men, women and children each year.
Many European countries have tightened their legislation in recent years to restrict the inflow of asylum-seekers.
Of the more than 71,000 applicants for asylum in Britain last year, 54 percent received refugee status or were granted exceptional leave to remain in the country.
Following are the numbers of applications for asylum received in several European countries in 1999, and the number as a percentage of population.
Country Number of Number of applications
Applications per 1,000 population
Austria 20,129 2.49
Belgium 35,778 3.50
Britain 71,180 1.55
France 30,072 0.52
Germany 95,331 1.16
Hungary 11,477 1.15
Netherlands 39,299 2.49
Sweden 11,231 1.27
Switzerland 46,133 6.48
(Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees)
According to UNHCR figures, there were around 11.5 million refugees worldwide as of January 1, 1999.
In addition 1.3 million others were classed as asylum-seekers whose applications were outstanding, including 577,000 seeking asylum in European countries. Europe as a whole was home to 2.67 million refugees.
The majority of illegal immigrants to western Europe come from the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Congo, Iran, Iraq, Romania, Sri Lanka and the former Zaire -- LONDON (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)