Myths, Facts, and Stats

Common Myths About Refugees In Canada

(complete list can be found on:

MYTH: The refugee system lets criminals and terrorists into Canada.

FACT: The Canadian refugee determination system excludes people who have criminal or terrorist pasts.

While in the past, some human rights violators have made their homes in Canada, there are a few ways to address this issue. Canada has laws in place allowing for the prosecution in Canada of individuals accused of committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture abroad. However, the Canadian government has preferred to deport such people, rather than prosecute them. This is troubling when such people are deported to countries where they face a serious risk of human rights violations, or are likely to go unpunished for their crime.
MYTH: Refugees are a drain on our economy.

FACT: Studies show that refugees and immigrants contribute positively to the Canadian economy. Many refugees start small businesses that employ both themselves and “native” Canadians. In addition, immigration helps to offset the effects of our declining birth rate and aging population.
MYTH: Most “refugees” are really economic migrants – they come to Canada just to get richer.

FACT: It is not always easy to separate refugees fleeing persecution from others fleeing economic instability in the countries from which they flee.

An April 2003 study done by the U.K. based Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found that the majority of asylum seekers are driven by “conflict and repression rather than economic factors…1

In a detailed analysis of refugee trends, the study concluded the ten most common countries of origin of asylum-seekers in Western Europe are linked by their chronic instability, rather than their poverty.
MYTH: Canada takes more than its share of refugees

FACT: Because of its geographic isolation, Canada receives a relatively small number of refugees. By far the largest number of refugees are in developing countries.

The majority of the world’s refugees come from – and remain in – countries of the South. The following countries have each been hosting over a quarter of a million uprooted people: Congo/Zaire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Sudan, Tanzania, Azerbaijan, Germany, Russian Federation, Yugoslavia, United States, China, Gaza Strip, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, India, and Pakistan.

The equivalent figure for Canada was 48,800.

The number of refugees Canada accepts each year is less than a tenth of 1% of the population.2

Statistically Speaking:

Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Principal home countries of refugees to Canada in 2002 and the numbers of immigrants from each:

Afghanistan – 2743
Sri Lanka – 2207
Pakistan – 2102
Colombia – 1729
People’s Rep. of China – 1249
Iran – 1243
Democratic Rep. of Sudan – 1240
India – 1201
Iraq– 927
Democratic Rep. of Congo – 782

Canadian Refugee Facts

Source: Government of Canada

  • According to Canadian government estimates, 4,025,546 people emigrated to Canada between 1979 and 2001. Of those, 409,526 (15.4%) arrived as refugees: 232,337 under government sponsorship and 177,189 sponsored privately.
  • Almost 25,000 people made refugee claims in Canada between January and September of 2003. 12% of those claims were made at airports; 36% at the border, and 52% inland.
  • From January to September 2003, 69% of refugee claims were made in Ontario, 23% in Quebec, 5% in BC, 2% in the Prairies and less than 1% in the Atlantic region.
  • About 40% of refugee claims filed in Canada are accepted and claimants given permission to stay in Canada.
  • At the end of September 2003, about 46,000 claims were awaiting a hearing or decision from the Immigration and Refugee Board.
  • According to the UN, there were over 10 million refugees in the world in
    2002. That same year, according to Canadian government figures, 15,228
    people (47% of those who applied) were accepted into Canada as refugees.
    Canada is not among the world’s leading destinations for refugees: the
    majority go across their own national borders and no further.

First half asylum statistics for industrialized countries

Briefing Notes, 17 October 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond– to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 17 October 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Despite a drop in their numbers, Iraqis remained by far the top nationality seeking asylum in industrialized countries in the first half of 2008, according to UNHCR’s latest asylum report released today (Friday).

During the first six months of 2008, a total of 19,500 asylum claims were lodged by Iraqis in the 44 industrialised countries included in the report. This constitutes an 18 percent decrease compared to the previous six months and a 10 percent decrease compared to the first half of 2007. In spite of this downward trend, Iraqis still accounted for 12 percent of all asylum applications lodged in the industrialised world.

Among other things, UNHCR’s report shows that the number of asylum claims made by Iraqis (19,500), was higher than the combined number of asylum claims submitted by citizens of the Russian Federation (9,400) and China (8,700), the second and third most important source countries. Other important countries of origin of asylum seekers were Somalia (7,400), Pakistan and Afghanistan (6,300 each).

Sixty percent of all Iraqis claimed asylum in only four countries: Sweden (20 percent), Germany (18 percent), Turkey (14 percent) and the Netherlands (12 percent). One in five of all applications by Iraqis were submitted in Sweden (3,900), which has been the main destination country for Iraqi asylum seekers for some time. Arrivals in Sweden, however, have seen a recent drop following a change in Swedish decision-making on Iraqi asylum claims resulting in fewer Iraqis submitting applications. At the same time, applications by Iraqis have gone up in Germany, the Netherlands and Norway. Germany, for example, received 3,400 Iraqi asylum claims in the first half of 2008, the same level as in the preceding six months, but four times more than in the first half of 2007.

Overall, an estimated 165,100 asylum claims were submitted by all nationalities in the industrialised countries during the first half of 2008.

The United States remained the largest single recipient of new claims by asylum seekers of all nationalities during the first six months of 2008. An estimated 25,400 individuals submitted asylum applications in the USA, representing 15 percent of all applications lodged in the 44 industrialized countries covered by the report. Canada ranked second country of destination with 16,800 applications by asylum seekers of all nationalities during the first six months of 2008.

The number of asylum claims submitted in industrialised countries in 2007 rose by 9 per cent compared to 2006. This upward trend has continued during the first half of 2008 with data showing an increase of 3 percent compared to the first half of 2007. Assuming that current patterns remain unchanged during the next six months, UNHCR expects the number of asylum claims lodged during the whole of 2008 to reach up to 360,000, or 10 percent higher than in 2007.

Among the major source countries of asylum-seekers, significant increases were registered by asylum applicants from Mali, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Côte d’Ivoire, Georgia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.