Canada·Profile

Canada's refugee claimants: Where they come from by the numbers

They may not get refugee status, but people from China top the list for the most refugee claims filed in Canada.

Most won't get accepted but Chinese claimants No. 1 now, as Mexican numbers fall

They may not get refugee status, but people from China top the list for the most refugee claims filed in Canada. Dancers perform with a dragon head during the Chinese New Year parade in Vancouver. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

In 2013-2014, China was the top source country for refugee claimants in Canada, with 1,948, followed by Pakistan, Colombia, Syria and Nigeria. 

Someone becomes a claimant after arriving in Canada and filing a refugee claim with the Canada Border Services Agency or Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

If they are eligible, their claim goes to the Immigration and Refugee Board, where fewer than half those claims get approved. 

CIC tracks the numbers for refugee claimants.

The current list of top claimants has changed significantly from previous years, following two policy changes by the Canadian government that had dramatically lowered the number of claims by people from Mexico, the Czech Republic and Hungary, which used to rank in the top five.

Mexico was the No. 1 source country for refugee claimants every year from 2005 to 2009, with an annual average of 6,500.

The number of Mexican claimants peaked in 2008 at nearly 9,500 and has declined every year since, after Canada began requiring visitors travelling with a Mexican passport to obtain a visa, despite the North American Free Trade Agreement and the objections of big business. The government's stated goal was to deter bogus refugee claimants.

The government implemented the same requirement for people with a Czech passport. After that change, there was a significant drop in the number of claimants from that country as well, CIC numbers show. 

New asylum system

In late 2012, the federal government implemented a new asylum system, with the goal of reducing the number of refugee claimants coming from countries that it considers safe. The government's "Designated Countries of Origin" list includes 42 countries.

"DCOs are countries that do not normally produce refugees, but do respect human rights and offer state protection," the CIC says on its website.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers says refugee claimants from DCO countries are "rushed through the refugee claim process, deprived of important procedural protections and denied fundamental justice."

Almost all the refugee claims filed by Syrians after they came to Canada, that have come before the IRB this year, were approved. (Amanda Grant/CBC)

In 2014, the Slovak Republic was the top-ranked DCO for refugee claimants and the 12th overall. Hungary, also considered a safe country by the Canadian government, was 14th.

The IRB ranked Hungary No. 3 in refugee claims accepted, despite Canada considering it a safe country, and therefore including it on the DCO list. The board accepted 68 per cent of Hungarian refugee status applications.

Mexicans have had more than 300 refugee applications accepted by the IRB since 2013, out of about 1,400.

CIC data suggests that refugee claimants are coming from a wider range of countries in recent years. From 2003 to 2010, the top 10 countries accounted for more than half the total number of refugee claimants in that year. For the years since 2011, they have accounted for less than half.

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