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Does Canada do its ‘fair share’ of refugee resettlement

In November 2017, the Government of Canada announced plans to welcome 1 million permanent residents to Canada between 2018-2020.  Of these, almost 140,000 are expected to be refugees and protected persons. In light of the new immigration plan and the Liberal Government’s past commitments to refugee resettlement, we explore whether Canada is accepting its fair share of the global refugee burden.

What is the global refugee burden?

On an annual basis, the refugee burden can be understood as the number of refugees in need of resettlement in third countries plus the total number of asylum-seekers arriving in host states.  In 2016, this amounts to about 4 million people, including 1.2 million refugees in need of resettlement and 2.8 million asylum-seekers (who request international protection but whose refugee status claims not yet determined).

Refugee resettlement refers to the transfer of refugees from the state where initial protection was sought, to a third state which agrees to accept refugees as permanent residents.  This is the primary channel through which Canada receives refugees; the 40,000 Syrian refugees to Canada accepted between November 2015 and January 2017, for instance, were “resettled” from countries of first asylum (likely Turkey and Lebanon).

In other countries, such as Germany, refugee inflows are driven by asylum-seekers who make refugee status claims upon arriving in host countries.  In 2016, Germany received approx. 746,000 asylum applicants, more than half of which were accepted.  Canada tends to see relatively few asylum-seeker claims, although 2017 saw a marked rise in asylum-seekers crossing into Canada from the US.

Which countries accept the most refugees?

In 2016, approximately 1.09 million asylum-seekers and refugees were accepted by host countries.  This represents about 27% of the 4 million people that were either in need of resettlement or applied for asylum that year.

Germany accepted the highest number of asylum-seekers and resettled refugees in 2016 at approx. 445,000.  This represents almost half of all refugees accepted.   Other top host countries in 2016 included the US (117,000), Sweden (70,000) and Canada (57,000).

Does Canada do its fair share?

Canada’s “fair share” can be understood as Canada’s intake of refugees and asylum-seekers as a proportion of total resettlements and accepted asylum claims relative to Canada’s share of the global income.

In 2016, Canada accepted 5.2% of the 1.09 million resettled refugees and asylum seekers accepted in 2016.  At current levels, Canada does more than three times its fair share relative to its proportion of the global economy (1.4%).

As a share of the total 4 million in need of resettlement and asylum, Canada accepted 1.4% in 2016.  This means that Canada’s does exactly its “fair share” relative to its size.

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