(Ottawa) As the number of internally displaced people reaches record highs since the Second World War, new figures indicate that Canada resettled more refugees last year than any other country.
The latest report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) indicates that the number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict now exceeds 70 million – a record since the wars of the twentieth century.
About 1.4 million refugees needed resettlement in 2018, but only 92,400 resettled in 25 countries, says the UN agency. Canada accepted 28,100 refugees for permanent resettlement last year, a 30% share. The United States was second with 22,900 refugees resettled.
The data also shows that Canada ranks second in the world for the number of refugees who have been granted citizenship – which is a measure of how well a country integrates refugees. In total, 18,000 refugees became Canadian citizens last year, a substantial increase from 2017, when just over 10,000 refugees were naturalized. This number had tended to decrease over time.
Michael Casasola, a senior UNHCR official in the country, said Canada was a leader in hosting refugees, and that it also allowed them to flourish afterwards.
He mentioned Canada's private sponsorship program, which allows for the resettlement of two-thirds of refugees in Canada. By providing community support directly from citizens and charitable organizations, this sponsorship makes it easier for refugees to integrate into their community than government-assisted refugees.
"Canada's approach to integration works. It encourages integration, encourages refugees to become an integral part of Canadian society, and eventually to obtain citizenship – among all immigrants who come to Canada, it is the refugees who get it the most, "said Mr. Casasola .
But everything is not rosy when it comes to welcoming refugees. The influx of "irregular" asylum seekers who entered Canada on a small road between New York State and Quebec – Roxham Road – became a divisive topic, with Conservative politicians accusing these "illegals" To go before the other legitimate applicants.
The UNHCR report shows that Canada ranked ninth in 2018 for the number of new asylum seekers, with 55,400 applications filed. More than 19,000 of these requests came from people intercepted by the federal police for irregular entry into Canada – mostly through Roxham Road.
This overall increase in the number of refugee claimants in Canada has resulted in a significant delay in processing claims and housing problems in Montreal and Toronto. But UNHCR figures show that this situation is far from the huge waves of refugees flocking to other countries. "Only 16% of the world's refugees are in developed countries," said Casasola.
"In fact, the vast majority of refugees are in" front-line "countries. So we always have to be cautious about some of the rhetoric that tries to show that we are "overwhelmed", while other countries take on much greater responsibility when refugees cross their borders. "
Turkey thus welcomed the largest number of refugees in the world in 2018, with 3.7 million; Pakistan received 1.4 million and Uganda 1.2 million.
The main source country of refugees in 2018 was Syria, with 6.7 million people fleeing the civil war at the end of the year. Although these refugees were hosted by 127 countries on all continents, the vast majority of them – 85 per cent – remained in countries in the Middle East.
Mr. Casasola also expressed concern about the rise of some closure rhetoric about refugee claimants in Canada and other countries. While immigration should be an issue during this fall's federal election campaign, he hopes this trend will not continue.
"It is disconcerting to hear a negative discourse about refugees when in fact we know that the Canadian model of reception and integration works very well," he said. "We are always worried that refugees will become scapegoats during an election or be exploited as a lightning rod, especially when much of what we hear is neither accurate nor based on facts. "
For example, while some Canadians are worried about "irregular migrants", their numbers have decreased slightly in 2018 compared to 2017, and so far this year, this rate has slowed compared to the same period last year . "That's why we want people to know about the successes of refugees, how they make a contribution to Canada," Casasola said.