WASHINGTON: More than 20,000 Indian nationals have sought asylum in the US since 2014, according to latest state figures.

Till July, a maximum number of 7,214 Indian nationals had applied for asylum in the US. Of these only 296 were women, according to the information provided by the US Department of Homeland Security to the North American Punjabi Association (NAPA). California-based NAPA, has been working among illegal immigrants from Punjab.

Political asylum refers to the protection given to political refugees from arrest by a foreign jurisdiction. A nation or embassy that affords such protection is also called asylum. Asylum is not the same as the refugee. In case of asylum, the asylum-seeker (or asylee) seeks his or her status after arriving in what is hoped will be the welcoming country, whereas a refugee is given that status before traveling to the final destination. 

According to information obtained by the NAPA from Department of Homeland Security, 2,306 Indian nationals applied for asylum in 2014. In 2015, 2,971 Indians, including 96 women, sought asylum.

In 2016, as many as 4,088 Indians, including 123 women, asked for asylum from the US. In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security received asylum requests from 3,656 Indians, including 187 women.

"The number of Indians who are seeking asylum in the US has almost doubled in the last two years. This is an issue of concern for all of us," Satnam Singh Chahal, executive director of NAPA said in a statement.

Observing that the US asylum law applies to those who have a well-founded fear of persecution "on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion," Mr Chahal said those fleeing generalised crime and violence in their home country do not easily fit into these categories.

(With PTI inputs)