The refugee crisis is greater now than ever before.

Source: UNHCR Global Trends 2018

25.4 million UNHCR-verified refugees—five times the population of British Columbia. Another 5.4 million Palestinians living in permanent camps. 3.1 million asylum seekers—people driven from their home countries but not yet verified as refugees. And 40 million internally displaced.

Many people are working to find solutions. This UNHCR video describes the extent of the problem and a proposed Global Compact for Migration that is working to establish inter-governmental cooperation in light of the escalating crisis.

Refugees are fleeing horrific conditions.

Source: UNHCR 2014 report World at War

Refugees are fleeing their homes out of fear for their lives. They are not moving for better jobs or nicer lifestyles. Some refugees are in danger because authorities do not or cannot protect them from persecution for reasons such as ethnicity, faith, or sexual orientation. Some are caught in the middle of ongoing and escalating civil wars.

This video describes the civil war in the Nuba Mountains that has forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee the area for other parts of Sudan or other countries.

52% of refugees are children under 18.

Source: UNHCR Global Trends 2018

Becoming a refugee doesn't just rob children of their childhoods, it robs them of their futures. Refugee children frequently receive little or no education, and may have to work at an early age to help their families. Their nutrition is minimally adequate at best and often very poor. Dental, medical, and mental health issues go untreated. Many have lost family members, and thousands every year end up entirely on their own.

This video tells the story of Anas, a Syrian boy who fled Syria to Lebanon. In 2014, Ana’s family had been in Lebanon for a year. He was 12 years old at the time.

Poor countries look after the majority of the world’s refugees.

Source: UNHCR Global Trends 2018

The UN’s Refugee Agency estimates that 85% of the world’s refugees are sheltered by struggling countries. In 2017, Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, and Lebanon took in the largest number of refugees. How does Canada rate? In 2017 Canada took in slightly under 3 refugees per 1,000 population. By comparison, Lebanon, with a roughly five times lower GDP per capita than Canada, sheltered 164 refugees per 1,000 population.

Not all refugees are desperately poor.

Source: Refugee Sponsorship Training Program Bulletin January 2019

Just like anyone else, refugees come from all walks of life and economic backgrounds. Although most refugees flee with little more than the clothes on their backs, some refugees bring financial resources to Canada. Depending on the amount, they may be required to contribute to their support during the 12-month settlement year.

Refugees must pass intense eligibility and admissibility screening.

Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Website 5 Feb 2019

Eligibility: People claiming refugee status must prove to a Canadian Visa Officer that their lives were genuinely in danger in their home country. The documentation required is extensive, and the examination of the case is very detailed.

Admissibility: People being admitted to Canada are screened to make sure that they don’t have any health issues that are a danger to Canada, that they do not have a criminal record, and that they are not a security risk—for example, they have not been associated with any terrorist groups. Anyone wanting to come to Canada to do harm would get in more easily with a tourist visa than as a refugee.

Refugees pay their own way to Canada.

Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Website 21 Feb 2018

Refugees who cannot afford to pay for their airfares, travel documents, and required medical exams are given loans by the Canadian government to cover the costs. For a family of five, this would be in the range of $10,000. The interest rate has varied from year to year. In 2018 the federal government, after intense pressure from refugee support groups, made the loans interest-free.

Privately sponsored refugees cannot claim income assistance.

Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Guidelines for Sponsorship

Sponsors are legally bound to ensure that newcomers do not claim provincial income assistance in the settlement year. Privately sponsored refugees are given a monthly income based on the income from a full-time minimum-wage job. This comes from funds raised by the sponsorship group. Government-sponsored refugees do get income assistance for 12 months, at the going rate for the province they are in.

Refugees do not create a heavy demand on health care.

Source: Canadian Council for Refugees Refugees: Myths Busted! September 2016

High health-care costs are associated with aging. Because refugees tend on average to be younger than the general Canadian population, they are not typically heavy users of the health care system. Newcomers qualify for the same health care coverage as others in their province of residence, including low-income supplements if applicable. They do not get additional benefits

We need newcomers to ensure a strong future for Canada.

Source: Government of Canada 2018 Report to Parliament on Immigration

Canada has an aging population and low birth rates. Newcomers are needed to help ensure that Canada’s population and labour force continue to grow. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that by 2035 Canada will require 350,000 immigrants a year to meet worker shortfalls due to retirement and low native-born-population figures.

Refugees are an economic benefit to Canada.

Source: Canadian Council for Refugees Refugees: Myths Busted! September 2016

When refugees come to Canada and start working, they pay taxes and spend money on housing, transportation and consumer goods and thus contribute to overall economic prosperity.

Many refugees struggle in their first years in Canada. However, by 5-10 years, they are typically "on their feet." According to an IRCC long-term study, after 25 to 30 years, the average refugee is earning roughly $50,000 a year, about $5,000 more than the average Canadian. (Vancouver Sun, 9 October 2018). Newcomers are also more likely than Canadian-born to start businesses and eventually employ others. Research done by the Organization for Economic Development found that immigrants create a job for every one they occupy.

Historically, refugees have thrived in Canada.

Source: Martin Beiser Strangers at the Gate: The "Boat People's" First Ten Years in Canada

The group most extensively studied are the "boat people." Between 1979 and 1981, Canada accepted 60,000 refugees from Southeast Asia. This was when the government first brought in the Private Sponsorship program. Within a decade, 86% of those former refugees were working, healthy, and spoke English with some proficiency. They were less likely to use social services and more likely to have jobs than the average Canadian. One in five was self-employed.

Three families from Vietnam were sponsored to Sooke in 1979 as part of this initiative.

Canada has a centuries-old tradition of welcoming refugees.

Source: Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada A History of Refuge 12 June 2017

One of the earliest were Quakers. From 1770 to 1790, members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) fled north from the American colonies to the area that is now southern Ontario. The Quakers were refugees from the American Revolution. Quakers are pacifists, which did not fit with the mood in the American colonies at the time. This religious group had previously fled England due to persecution for their faith. Quakers believe in social justice and international relief. In 1947, the Society of Friends was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their relief and reconciliation work following World War II.

For an interesting look at other refugee groups from the Quakers to the recent Syrian Resettlement Initiative, visit: this site.