Developed countries received sharply fewer asylum applications last year, a report said Wednesday, as the world remains gripped in a migrant crisis fuelled by wars and economic hardship.
Applications for asylum in the 36-country Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) dropped 34 percent to 1.09 million last year from 1.65 million in 2016, which marked the height of the migrant flow to Europe.
"Because of the drop in asylum applications, the number of registered refugees also declined," said the OECD -- from about 900,000 permits issued in 2016 to 700,000 in 2017.
Refugees represented 14 percent of permanent migrants in the OECD last year, the report said.
Most were from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Venezuela.
Despite the decline in asylum seekers, humanitarian migration remained at a "historically high level, said the bloc, whose members come from Europe, the Americas and the Pacific -- many of them, including the United States, key migrant destinations.
"While it is not the main channel of immigration to any OECD country... it is the second-largest channel of migration to Austria, Germany, Sweden and the United States."
The report said OECD members received 5.3 million new permanent migrants in 2018, a two-percent rise over 2017, mainly due to families joining a growing number of expat workers.
There was also a rise in temporary workers -- an 11-percent jump from 2016 to about 4.9 million in 2017, the latest year for which data was available.
The group took issue with claims by right-wing politicians in Europe and America that migrants were stealing jobs and social benefits from locals.
People tend to confuse illegal and lawful movements of people, and to view all migration as driven by indigence, said the report.
"In a number of countries, a common public perception is that migration is uncontrolled and costly. Uncontrolled because borders are not perceived to be secure. Costly because immigrants are assumed to be taking jobs from native workers or claiming social benefits for themselves and/or their families," it said.
While there was "little evidence to support these views," it would be a mistake to take people's fears about migration lightly, the report warned.
Migration has been a key issue for leaders including US President Donald Trump, Matteo Salvini in Italy and Marine le Pen in France, with many countries seeing a sharp shift to the right partly blamed on anti-immigrant sentiment.
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