Canada remains an attractive destination for asylum seekers. In fact, it was the most popular of all G8 nations on a per-capita basis in 2008, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's annual report on global migration.
About 34,800 people sought refugee status, or about 1,045 asylum-seekers for every million people in Canada. Given the nation's geographic isolation, and the fact that it doesn't share a border with a refugee-producing country, that is a high number.
Only the U.S., with 39,400, and France, with 35,400, had more asylum seekers. That's 130 for every million people in the U.S., while the French total was 568 for every million.
Canada's levels suggest that some asylum seekers are economic migrants, seeking entry through the back door. The long wait time for a refugee hearing and lengthy appeals have become draw factors. The OECD report shows that Spain, despite its proximity to Africa, attracted just 4,517 asylum seekers in 2008. Greece had 19,884. Stricter immigration controls, as well as the economic crisis, have likely deterred migrants from Africa from trying to cross the sea into Europe.
Canada's escalating levels make Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's new refugee act an especially timely and sensible piece of legislation. The Balanced Refugee Reform Act, which awaits Royal Assent, charts a new course. It will ensure that failed claimants, including those on the "safe countries" list, have access to a new appeal, but will be subject to swift removal if their review fails.
Canada needs to be seen to have a fair and efficient refugee determination system.
Mr. Kenney should be applauded for addressing what he called "false asylum claims from safe, democratic countries." Mexico, Hungary, and even the U.S., regularly made it onto the top 10 source countries.
Canada has set its target for acceptance of refugee claims at 9,000 to 12,000 a year, including dependants, or just under half the 2006 target. The government is offsetting this with an increase in government-sponsored refugees: 2,500 more. Among those expected to benefit are gays, lesbians and dissidents fleeing persecution in Iran, and Iraqis.
False claimants who want a better life would do well to apply as economic-class immigrants. Canada increased its overall immigration target by 4 per cent in 2008 to 247,000, and will maintain this for 2010, while other OECD countries have reduced their targets.
Immigration growth is a vital driver of the economies of Western countries with aging populations, and is therefore desirable. Bogus claimants who clog the refugee system are queue-jumpers, and therefore not.