With more than 70 million people displaced around the world, Canada was officially the country to resettle the most refugees in 2018, according to a new report.
The report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) showed that Canada accepted 28,100 refugees for permanent resettlement last year, and that 18,000 refugees became Canadian citizens, meaning the country had the second-highest number of refugees to gain citizenship.
In 2018, there were about 1.4 million refugees seeking resettlement, but only 92,400 were successful in doing so.
The UN report highlights that the number of people displaced in 2018 due to war, persecution, and conflict in 2018 is at its highest since World War II.
As Canada rose to the top of the list, however, the United States slipped out of first place. The US resettled 22,900 refugees in 2018 — down from 33,000 in 2017, and 97,000 in 2016.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his position on acceptance of refugees clear in 2017 with a string of #WelcometoCanada tweets following US President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which limited the countries from which people could enter the US from.
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
But the report shows that while there was a spike in asylum seekers in 2017, these numbers are minimal in comparison to the huge numbers of refugees in 2018 found in, say, Turkey (3.7 million), or Pakistan (1.4 million), or Uganda (1.2 million).
In fact, only 16% of the world’s refugees are in developed countries, according to Michael Casasola, a senior resettlement officer UNHCR in Canada.
“The reality is the vast majority of refugees are in front-line countries,” he told the Canadian Press. “So we always have to be careful in certain discourse globally in terms of trying to present that somehow we’re inundated when other countries bear much larger responsibilities that they take on when refugees cross their border.”
Canada was actually ninth in the world for asylum seekers in 2018, with 55,400 claims.
“It’s disconcerting when we hear a negative narrative around refugees when, in fact, we know that Canada has been a successful model in terms of how to receive and integrate refugees,” Casasola said. “We’re always worried that refugees somehow become a punching bag during an election, or to be used as a lightning rod and such, especially when a lot of what we hear is not accurate or fact-based.”
Canada has a private sponsorship program, which is how two-thirds of the country’s refugees are resettled.
Casasola said that the refugees who come to Canada via private sponsorship see better results and are better integrated than government-sponsored refugees, as they are offered support from citizens and local charities.
And while critics argue that refugees are a sort of economic burden, UNHCR pushes back.
“It is time for us to recognize what these refugees bring to Canada, culturally and economically: they make us a stronger and more prosperous society,” said Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR representative in Canada, said in a statement. “The Canadian experience shows that welcoming refugees is a win-win. This undoubtedly provides an antidote to the too-often toxic and misleading narratives against displaced people we are hearing globally, and in Canada.”