UN urges EU to protect Iraqis seeking asylum

The UN refugee agency appealed to the European Union on Thursday to do more to protect refugees fleeing the bloodshed in Iraq, saying the war there was causing the biggest displacement of people in the Middle East in recent history. "The humanitarian situation is grave and deteriorating. States should respond to the protection needs of Iraqi asylum seekers on their territory," said Madeline Garlick, a spokeswoman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Brussels. The call comes a day after the Bush administration announced it will allow about 7,000 Iraqis to go to the United States this year, up from 202 in 2006, and will pay more to help Iraq's neighbors cope with the human tide fleeing the country. European countries are increasingly worried about growing numbers of Iraqi asylum seekers making their way to the continent. So far, the largest numbers have been in Sweden, followed by the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Britain and Belgium. The UN appeal coincides with an EU announcement that it would contribute an additional US$13 million for victims of the crisis in Iraq, about 60 percent of which will go to people who have fled to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.