Canada leads G8 in per capita asylum-seekers
By Peter O'Neil
Canwest News Europe Correspondent
Canwest News Service
July 12, 2010 7:02 AM
PARIS—-Canada, during the first year of the economic crisis, was the top target of asylum-seekers among the G8 major industrialized nations on a per capita basis, according to a report released Monday.
An estimated 34,800 people arrived in Canada in 2008 seeking refugee status, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's annual report on global migration.
That works out to 1,045 asylum-seekers for every million people in Canada.
Only the U.S., with 39,400, and France, with 35,400, had more among Canada's largest trading partners. The U.S. figure works out to just 130 for every million people, while the French total was 568 for every million.
The Canadian government has since restricted access to Canada for potential asylum-seekers from Mexico and the Czech Republic.
The government has also recently passed new legislation to crack down on what Immigration Minister Jason Kenney referred to as “waves of false asylum claims coming from safe, democratic countries.”
The OECD report noted that Canada has set its target for acceptance of refugee claims at 9,000 to 12,000 a year, including dependents, or just under half the 2006 target.
Canada wasn't the highest per-capita recipient of asylum claimants among the 31 OECD members.
Norway, Sweden and Switzerland were the top three, with Norway getting just over 3,000 per one million residents, while Sweden had 2,646 and Switzerland had 2,171.
The report said overall immigration to the OECD member countries fell six per cent in 2008, although that figure was skewed by huge drops in Spain, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Italy and the United Kingdom.
The majority of countries actually had increases, with Canada's estimated total of 247,200 in 2008 up four per cent from the previous year.
OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said immigration growth will remain an important driver in the economies of aging western countries, and called on governments to make life easier for newcomers.
“It is important to recall that migrants are valuable contributors to the national economy especially when times are good,” he said in a statement.
“Current economic difficulties will not change long-term demographic trends and should not be used as an excuse to overly restrict immigration. It is important that immigration policy has a long-term perspective.”