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How asylum seekers and resettled refugees come to Canada

Asylum seekers and resettled refugees go through separate processes to enter Canada, as both groups come to the country through different immigration streams.

Recent poll suggests 57% of Canadians believe country should be accepting fewer refugees

The United Nations Refugee Agency's global report found that Canada admitted the largest number of refugees who were resettled last year and had the second highest rate of refugees who gained citizenship. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

A recent CBC survey suggests that the majority of Canadians are against accepting more refugees, a result coming just weeks after a UN report found Canada is the global leader in refugee resettlement.

The United Nations Refugee Agency's report found that Canada admitted the largest number of refugees globally who were resettled last year and had the second highest rate of refugees who gained citizenship.

About 18,000 refugees became Canadian citizens last year, an increase from 2017 when just over 10,000 refugees were naturalized.

The CBC commissioned survey by Public Square Research and Maru/Blue, which polled 4,500 adults online from among those who registered with the Maru Voice panel, found that 57 per cent did not agree with the statement that Canada should be accepting more refugees.

These attitudes come as individuals crossing Canada's border outside of the official ports of entry become a source of significant political debate.

This month-by-month chart shows how RCMP interceptions of irregular crossers spiked in Aug. 2017, after U.S President Donald Trump removed special protection for nationals from several countries.

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), in 2014, there were just under 12,000 asylum claims. Of those, just over 7,000 were accepted, while more than 4,500 were rejected, withdrawn or abandoned.

As the following graph shows, asylum claims have been steadily climbing over the past few years. In 2018, there were nearly 27,000 asylum claims. Of those, almost 15,000 were accepted, while just over 12,000 were either rejected, withdrawn or abandoned.

There may also be some confusion around the differences between asylum claimants and resettled refugees. Asylum seekers make a refugee claim in Canada, either at an official port of entry or at an in-land office. 

The charts below show the separate processes asylum seekers and resettled refugees go through to enter Canada. Both groups come to the country through different immigration streams.

Asylum eligibility is based on a number of factors, including whether the claimant has committed a serious crime or made a previous claim in Canada. 

Meanwhile, resettled refugees are either government or community sponsored. They are screened abroad and have undergone security and medical checks before being issued a visa to come to Canada. When they land in Canada, they become permanent residents. 

Asylum seekers, whose claims are determined eligible, will get a hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. If successful, the claimant will receive "protected person status with the full spectrum of federally funded settlement services becoming available to them," according to the IRCC website.

If unsuccessful, they may be able to appeal, but when all appeal avenues are exhausted, "the conditional removal order that was issued at the time the refugee claim was initially made becomes enforceable." In other words, deportation proceedings begin. 


Commissioned by CBC News, the Public Square Research and Maru/Blue online survey was conducted between May 31 and June 10, 2019, interviewing 4,500 eligible voters. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have registered to participate in the Maru Voice panel. The data have been weighted to reflect the demographic composition of Canada, according to Statistics Canada. Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation in the Maru Voice panel rather than a probability sample, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated. However, a comparable probabilistic national sample of 3,000 voters would have a margin of error of +/- 1.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, while samples of 500 voters have a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With files from The Canadian Press