Canada’s refugees: Where they come from by the numbers

October 4, 2015

By CBC News |

Refugees from nearly every country have come to Canada over the years. And often the countries they came from reflect the history of international crises, like Syria and Iraq today or Chile and Bangladesh in the 1970s and Sri Lanka and Haiti more recently.

Over the last 10 years, about 26,000 refugees arrived in Canada annually, according to numbers from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Of that number, an average of about 11,000 were refugees who came to Canada and successfully claimed refugee status and 4,000 were their dependants. Seven thousand refugees received government assistance to resettle in Canada, and 4,000 were privately sponsored.

In 2014, 23,285 refugees were admitted to Canada, In recent years, refugees have accounted for slightly less than 10 per cent of all immigrants who come to Canada.

The federal government recently announced plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees (government-assisted or privately sponsored) over the next year, slightly less than the 12,310 refugees from all countries who resettled in Canada in 2014.

Syrians are also coming to Canada and filing asylum claims, which are almost all approved. That was the case for 678 Syrians in 2014. (Resettled refugees don’t file a claim.)

Colombia No. 1 source country

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, provides data for the countries where refugees have successfully sought asylum. During the 10 years from 2005 to 2014, about 150,000 refugees and their dependants became permanent residents of Canada, after claiming refugee status.

Refugees from eight countries account for half that total, with Colombia topping the list at 17,381.

Internal conflict has engulfed Colombia for the past five decades, says University of British Columbia professor Pilar Riano-Alcala, and civilians have been a major target of the military, the leftist guerillas and the right-wing paramilitaries.

“One of the key strategies of all the armed actors, in terms of the war, is forced displacement of the civilian population,” says Riano, a leading expert on Colombian refugees who did research for the Historical Memory Commission in Colombia.

The UNHCR estimates there are 360,000 Colombian refugees and six million people inside Colombia who have been forced from their homes.

Canada has been a major destination for Colombian refugees, helped by a Canadian policy, ended in 2011, that allowed Colombians to request asylum while still in Colombia, Riano says.

China, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Haiti follow Colombia on the UNHCR list for the start of 2014 .

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