Afghan Asylum Seekers Reach 10-Year High

Human smuggling in Afghanistan, Pakistan worth $1B annually
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2012 6:03 AM CST
Afghan Asylum Seekers Reach 10-Year High
In this May 14, 2009 photo released by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency officers stand over a boat load of suspected illegal immigrants caught off the coast of Malaysia. Malaysia is deploying helicopters, boats and an aircraft along its coast to catch a rising number of suspected illegal immigrants...   (AP Photo/Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency)

(Newser) – In the tenth year since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, more Afghans sought asylum abroad last year than any time since the war began, reports the AP. A UN report says that more than 30,000 Afghans applied for political asylum around the world from January to November, a 25% increase over the same period in 2010. "I don't think anything will improve in three or five years, so it's better to leave now," said an unemployed 20-year-old who is trying to get to Europe via Iran, adding, "If foreign troops leave, the situation will only get worse, not better."

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Experts think that the true number of people fleeing Afghanistan is much higher because of a large smuggling market that has developed. With people paying a few hundred dollars to get into Iran or Pakistan, to more than $25,000 for false papers and a flight to a country like England or Sweden, the human smuggling business in Afghanistan and Pakistan is worth more than $1 billion a year, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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