Each year 35 million people are forced to flee their homelands to escape persecution, war or severe human rights abuses, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Often these people can never return home and about one third are officially recognized as refugees.

Who is a refugee?

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has fear of persecution for reasons such as race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence, sexual orientation and gender violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

Refugees must qualify for entry under Canada’s laws and must pass medical and security checks before they can come to Canada.

What types of refugees does Canada recognize?

Canada offers refugee protection to people who face persecution in their home country or the country where they normally live, or who would face persecution if they returned to that country.

Canada recognizes two types of refugees.

1. Persons who, even before their arrival to Canada, have been sponsored by the Government of Canada as Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs) or by a private group. They are called Convention Refugees. They might have been waiting in one of the world’s many refugee camps for years before being selected to resettle in Canada as permanent residence and future Canadian citizens.

2. Persons who make their own way out of the country or situation they are fleeing. After reaching Canada by land, sea or air, they apply for asylum through the in-land refugee determination system. They are called Refugee Claimants. If they are carrying valid identity documents, they can live in the community while they await a hearing to determine their case. If their documents are missing or are suspicious, they may be held in detention until their identity can be confirmed.

How many refugees does Canada accept?

Canada is one of 28 counties to resettle approximately 100,000 refugees a year. Of that number, Canada annually takes in one out of every 10, through the government-assisted and privately sponsored refugee programs.

In 2014, 23,286 refugees and their families made Canada their home. Of the total:

  • 7,573 were GARs;
  • 4,560 were Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs); and
  • 7,749 Refugees landed in Canada (RLCs) as well as 4,854 refugee dependents

In response to the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis unfolding in Europe, Canada has welcomed 30,136 Syrian refugees from November 4, 2015 to August 21, 2016. The number continues to rise.

  • 16,218 were GARs;
  • 11,000 were Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs); and
  • 7,749 were Blended Visa Office-Referred Refugee

How many refugees does BC accept?

BC receives an average of 1,664 refugees each year. Between 2009 and 2013 a total 8,319 refugees arrived in B.C. Of that number:

  • 42 percent were Government-Assisted Refugees;
  • 32 percent were Refugee Claimants;
  • 13 percent were Refugee Dependants; and
  • 12 percent were Privately Sponsored Refugees.

In 2015 BC welcomed 1139 GARs from 17 different countries.

The top source countries were Syria (34 percent), Iraq (22 percent), Iran (18 percent), Eritrea (5 percent), Somali Rep (4 percent).

From November 4, 2015 to July 17, 2016 BC has welcomed 1938 Government Assisted Refugees from Syrian and is anticipating over 1000 more to arrive by December 31, 2016.

What supports do Government-Assisted Refugees receive?

Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs) are refugees who are selected from abroad and resettled to Canada, arriving as permanent residents. The federal government is responsible for their selection and initial settlement in Canada. For example, GARs are eligible for federal government income support through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) for up to one year after arrival.

Support services include:

  • temporary housing,
  • help with finding permanent housing,
  • help with registering for mandatory federal and provincial programs,
  • orientation to the community,
  • support for high needs clients, and
  • referrals to other refugee programs.

Canada provides income support under RAP to eligible refugees who cannot pay for their own basic needs. Support can include a:

  • one-time household start-up allowance, and
  • monthly income support payment.

The level of monthly financial support is generally based on the prevailing provincial social assistance rates in the province where the refugees settle. Financial support can last up to one year after a refugee arrives in Canada, or until they can support themselves, whichever occurs first.

How does ISSofBC Welcome Centre help?

ISSofBC’s vision for the new facility located in the Broadway and Commercial corridor is to locate all of the necessary supports that a refugee newcomer would need during their first year in Canada under one roof in close proximity to transit – a sky train station.

The ISSofBC Welcome Centre primarily addresses the immediate needs of GARS and immigrants who arrive in Canada. New arrivals will have streamlined access to care through on-site services from a variety of organizations, public institutions and programs in combination with housing.

To learn more

ISSofBC Refugee Readiness Hub
ISSofBC Welcome Centre
#WelcomeRefugees: Canada resettles Syrian refugees
Interactive map of ethnicity in Metro Vancouver
The Canadian Council for refugees
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) – global statistics and data on refugees