Low number for refugees accepted in Canada is a serious concern in immigration levels

Media release

For immediate release

2 November 2018

Low number for refugees accepted in Canada is a serious concern in immigration levels

The Canadian Council for Refugees welcomes the federal government’s plans to increase overall immigration levels in the coming years. However, the failure to increase the planned level in 2019 for refugees accepted in Canada means that many people will spend years waiting for permanent status, separated from their families.

The government is planning to grant permanent residence in 2019 to 16,500 refugees accepted through refugee determination in Canada. Yet, the Immigration and Refugee Board accepted close to 9,000 in the first half of 2018, before the addition of more decision-makers. The levels also need to include space for family members.

“We are deeply disappointed that the government has not set a higher target in 2019 for refugees in Canada, to reflect the fact that more refugee claimants are being accepted,” said Claire Roque, President. “Once Canada has recognized that a person needs our protection, it is crucial that they can get on with their life as soon as possible and reunite with immediate family members outside Canada. Making them wait years is not only devastating for them – it is also bad for Canada: they cannot contribute fully here until they become permanent residents.”

The March 2018 budget provided additional funding for refugee determination at the Immigration and Refugee Board, meaning that more decisions are being made, both positive and negative. However, it seems that the government is more concerned about those who don’t need Canada’s protection than those who do, since there are increased targets for deportations, as reported recently, but not increased levels for permanent residence. This decision will be costly to the Canadian taxpayer: the longer refugees wait to become permanent residents and to reunite with immediate family, the more their integration is delayed and the less they can contribute to the Canadian economy.

Currently, the processing time for permanent residence for accepted refugees in Canada is 2 ½ years. Those separated from spouse and children must wait even longer for family reunification: the federal government does not disclose these processing times.

Canada has legal obligations towards refugees accepted in Canada, because international law requires that we protect people who show up at our borders having fled persecution. Other immigration programs such as refugee resettlement and economic immigration are voluntary, and not required by any law.

The CCR welcomes the planned increase in the number of Government Assisted Refugees (9,300 in 2019, up from 7,500 in 2018). We believe that Canada can and should do much more: we continue to call for an annual target of 20,000 Government Assisted Refugees.

The CCR notes with concern the absence of any update on the government’s commitment to achieve one-year processing times for Privately Sponsored Refugees. Given the large backlog of applications, it is not clear that the proposed levels plan will allow this goal to be reached in the coming year.


Colleen French, Communication Coordinator, Canadian Council for Refugees, 514-277-7223, ext.1, 514-602-2098 (cell), media@ccrweb.ca