This year’s surge in asylum claimants to Canada isn’t unprecedented: U of C analysis

An asylum seeker checks his phone next to a tent at the Canada-United States border in Lacolle, Que.
An asylum seeker checks his phone next to a tent at the Canada-United States border in Lacolle, Que. CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

While this year’s influx of asylum-seekers jumping the Canada-U.S. border has highlighted many issues with Canada’s system, the sheer number of claimants is not unprecedented, according to the Social Policy Trends publication this week from the University of Calgary.

“The recent crisis may have made many Canadians aware of asylum-seekers for the first time,” the article reads. “However, [asylum-seekers] have been arriving to Canada in significant numbers for many years.”

According to data analyzed at the university’s School of Public Policy, an estimated 36,610 people will come to Canada to seek asylum by year’s end.

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Spikes in 2000, 2001 & 2008

That number stands to be only the fourth highest since 2000, the first year analyzed for this publication.

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That year, there were 37,845 claimants, and in 2008, there were 36,920 across the country.

The highest volume came in 2001, with a total of 44,695 asylum claimants in Canada, the majority of which made their claims in Ontario and Quebec.

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The year with the lowest number of claims over the period analyzed was 2013 with 10,380.

“The number of claims from year to year varies widely and unexpectedly,” the report’s author wrote.

So while this year’s numbers are projected to be among the highest over the past 17 years, they are not unmatched – or even unsurpassed.

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This paper supports the federal government’s claim the country’s immigration and refugee system can handle this year’s influx.

However, as the author points out, much of the responsibility for asylum-seekers falls to provincial and municipal governments.

“In particular, a municipality in which the claim is being made [is] responsible for allocating the necessary resources to handle the surge,” the report reads.
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WATCH: Asylum seekers entering Canada triples in July

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Asylum seekers entering Canada triples in July

How many crossing illegally?

It’s not clear from the University of Calgary’s analysis how many claimants are illegally hopping the border – the issue receiving most attention as of late, especially in Quebec.

Up until this year, Citizenship and Immigration Canada didn’t distinguish between asylum-seekers crossing the border at “irregular” points of entry from those arriving by land.

Rather, those people the RCMP intercepted – anyone entering Canada between established and guarded border points – were included in the overall number of asylum-seekers who arrived by land.

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In July, the RCMP intercepted more than 3,100 people walking across the Canada-U.S. border, up from 884 in June, according to government’s records.

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In the first 15 days of August, though, an additional 3,800 were arrested crossing the border into Quebec, the RCMP said recently.

The influx has meant the Immigration and Refugee Board, which is responsible for hearing all asylum claims, had to redeploy resources, and the federal government erected a tent city to help house the newcomers.

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Refugee claimants in Quebec are being properly screened: Marc Garneau

But how these numbers compare to those of years past remains a mystery.

Global News recently asked the government to provide annual breakdowns of RCMP interceptions at unguarded border points but were told those numbers were unavailable.

“Previously, different criteria had been employed during the course of capturing the statistics. As a result, the numbers cannot be compared and the RCMP will not be providing historical data,” a spokesperson for the federal police agency wrote in an email.


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