CIMM - Refugees and Resettlement - June 2, 2021
- Canada has a proud humanitarian tradition and a commitment to protecting the world’s most vulnerable people.
- Through our Refugee Resettlement Program, Canada provides protection to overseas refugees located in countries of asylum. In 2019, Canada resettled more than 30,000 refugees and was the world’s top refugee resettlement country for the second year in a row.
- Refugee resettlement to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic has been limited by many factors, including Canadian border closures. Despite this challenge, we resettled over 9,200 refugees in 2020, and continue to resettle urgent cases, refugees with family in Canada, and refugees whose visas were issued before travel restrictions were in place.
- We are working with our partners to protect the health and safety of resettled refugees both prior to and after their arrival in Canada, in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.
- To address the plight of human rights defenders specifically, we will soon be introducing a dedicated refugee stream for human rights defenders at risk. Through the establishment of this stream Canada will become one of the first countries to offer dedicated protection spaces to this population.
- Canada’s Refugee Resettlement Program, founded on the 1951 Refugee Convention, allows persons in need of permanent protection to resettle to Canada.
- Refugees are either referred to Canada by partner organizations, such as the United Nations Refugee Agency, or identified by a private sponsor, and are then assessed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) migration officers abroad.
- Refugees who face immediate risks may be resettled under Canada’s Urgent Protection Program. This program provides expedited resettlement to refugees whose life, liberty, or safety is immediately threatened.
- Upon arrival to Canada, refugees become permanent residents and will, after a period of time, be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship.
Refugee resettlement during COVID-19
- Although refugee resettlement has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic, only those exempt from Canada’s border restriction measures can travel to Canada at this time. Exemptions apply to refugees whose visas were issued before travel restrictions were in place, those who have family members in Canada, and those requiring urgent protection. Canada resettled 115 urgent protection cases in 2020, and 59 from January 1 to April 30, 2021.
- In addition, numerous other factors have had an impact on travel for refugees approved for resettlement to Canada, including: conditions/restrictions in the refugee’s country of residence/asylum, the availability of flights, and the ability of foreign governments to issue exit permits.
- Canada continues to work with international partners to facilitate resettlement of refugees where conditions allow, and to ensure that refugees are prepared for their journey.
Human rights defenders
- The new stream for human rights defenders at risk will see the resettlement of up to 250 people each year as government-assisted refugees.
- This stream is additional to our existing refugee resettlement commitments, and 250 government-assisted refugee spaces have been added to the Immigration Levels Plan from 2021 to 2023.
- As announced in March 2021, Canada will be resettling up to 250 extended family members for Survivors of Daesh currently in Canada to support family reunification.
- Refugees will be either privately sponsored or referred to Canada for resettlement by the United Nations Refugee Agency and will receive full settlement services, income supports and, Interim Federal Health Program coverage upon arrival in Canada.
- Since 2017, Canada has resettled over 1,400 Survivors of Daesh in response to atrocities committed by Daesh, in particular against women and children in Northern Iraq. A large majority of the resettled survivors are Yazidis, who were subjected to a genocide by Daesh which included execution, forced conversion, torture and rape.
Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan
- Within Afghanistan there are minority Sikh and Hindu communities. Canada is aware of these communities and continues to support religious freedoms both at home and abroad, including in Afghanistan.
- The targeting and killing of men, women, and children based on their religious or ethnic identity represents a grave violation of human rights and an affront to human dignity, which Canada categorically condemns.
- Uyghurs who have fled persecution can currently access Canada’s protection through the Refugee Resettlement Program, if they are referred to Canada by the United Nations Refugee Agency or Canadian private sponsors.
- Uyghur human rights defenders having fled persecution may also be eligible for resettlement to Canada under the new human rights defenders stream.
- At this time, Canada is not considering any special measures for Uyghurs. The Government of Canada continues to monitor the plight of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang .
Economic pathways for refugees
- As announced in June 2020, Canada will be welcoming 500 principal applicants and their family members, as part of Phase 2 of the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP).
- Over and above Canada’s refugee resettlement programs, EMPP empowers refugees with in-demand skills to access existing economic immigration pathways, mitigating administrative barriers that refugees typically face.
- Canada is demonstrating global leadership on refugee labour mobility as the first state co-chair of the Global Task Force on Third Country Employment Pathways, which will showcase lessons learned and best practices, and provide an opportunity to contribute to building global capacity for refugee labour mobility.
Pre-arrival and post-arrival services
- IRCC and its resettlement partners have implemented measures to protect the health and safety of refugees and Canadians by ensuring compliance with Canada’s COVID-19 guidelines.
- Before arranging travel, IRCC confirms that service provider organizations and private sponsors are prepared to receive refugees and assist with mandatory isolation or quarantine requirements.
- We also work closely with the International Organization for Migration to facilitate immigration medical exams and travel to Canada for clients. Pre-departure medical service measures are provided to all travel-ready refugees. These include: pre-embarkation health checks, including health screening for COVID-19 for signs and symptoms; provision of non-medical masks and hand sanitizer; COVID-19 related counselling and information; COVID-19 testing; and isolation or quarantine services at the point of departure for where needed.
- The International Organization for Migration also delivers Canadian Orientation Abroad sessions, which include information on Canada’s COVID-19 health measures.
- After they land in Canada, resettled refugees will stay in government-authorized accommodation for their first three nights while awaiting the results of the COVID-19 test they are given upon arrival. Service provider organizations coordinate the hotel bookings and transportation to the hotel, and ensure that refugees get any specialized supports they may require. The Government of Canada will cover these costs.
- For resettled refugees already in Canada, service provider organizations and sponsors are focusing on delivering critical resettlement and settlement services (e.g. income support and information on COVID-19 measures).
Safety of newcomers and frontline employees
- Refugees resettling to Canada are particularly vulnerable and have critical needs upon their arrival. Support is provided to government-assisted refugees by IRCC-funded service provider organizations. Privately sponsored refugees are supported by their sponsors in Canada.
- COVID-19 has made it more challenging for service providers to offer these critical supports. We have worked to ensure that these services can be delivered safely, including by supplying personal protective equipment to service providers early in the crisis when it was hard to come by.
Interim Federal Health Program
- While in receipt of federal income support, resettled refugees also receive health-care coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program.
- In light of the pandemic, we have signed an agreement with the International Organization for Migration to deliver pre-departure medical services specific to COVID-19 for all refugees being resettled in Canada, including testing, pre-embarkation health checks, isolation services, if needed, and information on our public health measures. These outbreak management activities are in addition to our routine pre-departure health services for refugees, including immigration medical exams, vaccinations, and in-transit medical supports to facilitate safe travel.
Supporting facts and figures
Resettled refugee admissions
|2021 Admissions Target
|2022 Admissions Target
|2023 Admissions Target
|Blended Visa-Office Referred
- In 2020, Canada resettled 115 refugees under the Urgent Protection Program, who arrived in Canada as government-assisted refugees, or GARs.
- From January 1 to April 30, 2021, Canada has resettled 15 Blended Visa-Officer Referred, 1,070 Government-Assisted Refugees and 545 Privately Sponsored Refugees.
- Between January 1 and April 30, 2021, Canada has resettled 59 refugees under the Urgent Protection Program.
- Canada has issued 2,522 national interest exemption letters for refugees between January 1 and April 30, 2021.
- Since the introduction of COVID-related travel restrictions between Canada and the United States, there were 16,823 asylum claims made in Canada (as of April 30, 2021):
|Mode of Entry
|Number of Claims
Directed back and/or Safe Third Country Agreement exceptions
From March 21, 2020 to April 30, 2021, 412 asylum seekers were directed back to the United States after attempting to enter Canada.
Between April 22, 2020 and April 30, 2021, there were approximately 2,550 asylum claims at land border ports of entry. Of these, 1,757 claimants met an exception under the Safe Third Country Agreement and were permitted entry to Canada.
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