Canada's Generous Program for Refugee Resettlement Is Undermined by Human Smugglers Who Abuse Canada's Immigration System
Canada's refugee resettlement program is one of the most generous in the developed world. Each year, Canada resettles 10,000 to 12,000 refugees through its government-assisted and privately sponsored refugee programs. Globally, countries with resettlement programs resettle about 100,000 refugees from abroad each year, which means that Canada takes 1 out of every 10 refugees resettled. These refugees often spend many years – sometimes decades – in squalid refugee camps or urban slums in order to escape to Canada. Patiently they wait for the chance to immigrate to Canada legally.
As of October 2, 2010, there were more than 42,000 applications for refugee resettlement waiting in Canadian immigration offices around the world. Each of these applications represents a person or a family waiting patiently and legally in the refugee queue to come to Canada. These refugees choose to wait for the chance to come to Canada legally, rather than pay human smugglers to help them jump the queue. The Government of Canada appreciates their respect for our laws. In the fullness of time, that patience will be rewarded for many with a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada welcoming them to the Canadian family.
It is unfair to those seeking to come to Canada through legitimate, legal means when others pay human smugglers to help jump our immigration queue. When this happens, Canada's immigration system becomes less fair, and less balanced.
With the passage of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, Canada will be increasing the number of refugees resettled from abroad by 20%, or about 2,500 each year. The Government-Assisted Refugees Program, under which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees refers refugees to Canada for resettlement, will be expanded by 500 refugees. In addition, a further 2,000 resettlement places are being added to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. These increases will bring the number of refugees resettled annually to as many as 14,500. Canada's program for refugees to resettle here legally went from being one of the most generous in the world, to being even more generous.
Canada is a global leader in resettlement. For example, Canada was the first country to resettle Rohingya from Bangladesh and has now welcomed close to 300 refugees. In addition, Canada has resettled more than 3,900 Karen from Thailand and we are in the process of resettling up to 5,000 Bhutanese refugees from Nepal. These refugees have followed the rules.
In 2009, in response to the ongoing situation in Iraq and requests from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Canada more than doubled the number of resettled refugees it is welcoming through the mission in Damascus, where most Iraqi refugees apply. As a result, Canada resettled 1,418 Iraqi refugees through the government-assisted program and 2,426 more through the private sponsorship program last year. An additional 708 Iraqi refugees have been resettled to Canada in the first quarter of 2010. These refugees have followed the rules.
In addition, 30 years ago, thanks to the outpouring of support from Canadians, the Private Sponsorship of Refugees came into being as we welcomed more than 60,000 refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia who were fleeing international Communism. These refugees also followed the rules. More recently, Canada welcomed the remaining Vietnamese who had been living in the Philippines without status since the late 1970s, based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
In total, through the private sponsorship program, Canada has welcomed more than 200,000 refugees from all over the world, over and above the number of refugees resettled through the Government-Assisted Refugees Program. All of these individuals who immigrated to Canada through our resettlement programs waited patiently in the queue for the chance to come to Canada legally.
Our Government will stand up for these refugees' rights to be processed in a fair and orderly fashion, consistent with our laws and values – and not allow human smuggling operations to jump to the front of our immigration queue.