Al Jazerra Interview: Is Canada the world’s refugee role model?

According to the Al-Jazerra article “Is Canada the world’s refugee role model?”, the issue of refugees continues divide public opinion around the world.  Despite all of this division in western countries, Canada is seen as a role model for it’s treatment of refugees, even if on a rhetorical level.  Despite the image of Canada as a role model for refugees, however, the number of refugees went down from 55,000 to 40,000 in 2017  even as the refugee crisis shows no signs of abating.

According to Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen in an interview discussing Canada’s current policy on immigration, Huessen claimed that Canada has always had an ordered immigration policy that did not support irregular immigration policies; but it’s policies has supported orderly immigration policies that have added to Canada’s sociocultural and economic fabric.  Yet, in response to Donald Trump, according to the interviewer, Trudeau made a tweet that Canada had an #OpenBorders policy welcoming anyone regardless of their faith.   Hussen notes that this tweet does highlight Canada’s policy on immigrants, because the people being welcomed by Trudeau was coming to Canada supposedly in a orderly way through a port of entry and/or being referred to Canada by the UN High Council on Refugees, as well as being privately sponsored.

In response to critics that Canada was only taking advantage of the crisis in order to boost it’s own economy with the refugees despite the rhetoric that the refugees were welcomed if they flee persecution regardless of any economic factors at play, Huessen replied that while there is an important economic component, they also have an component tied to Canada’s own humanitarian heritage and history.

Yet, as the interviewer notes, the number of refugees went down from 55,000 to 40,000 in 2017 even as the economic migrants went up.  In response, Huessen claimed that “2016 was an exceptional year because of the Syrian refugee response. We always knew that would be an exceptional year. But if you take out that year and you compare 2017 with our previous years, you will see that the numbers are higher.”  Huessen also notes that if Canada is compared to the other G7 countries, then the number of resettled refugees is one they should be proud of, especially as they are number 1 in refugee resettlement.

With response to the critique that the landmass of Canada has not been settled sufficiently by refugees and that there wasn’t as much anti-refugee backlash and pressure to justify settling the number of refugees that were settled and that the number could be higher without much pressure, Huessen stated they are inching closer and closer to having 1% of the Canadian population represented by refugees as permanent residents invited every year.  Secondly, Canada also invests significant money in helping refugees succeed and rebuild their lives in Canada, such as 1 billion dollars being invested for language training and job support because this investment pays more down the road.

With regards to the possibility that an extremely anti-refugee policy akin to the Trump travel ban in America could manifest itself in Canada, Huessen states Canada will be unapologetic and ambitious in settling refugees and fostering diversity and inclusion.  He notes that the Conservative opposition would not be able to propose a “wrongheaded” measure such as the travel ban in America, through he refuses to call said travel ban a Muslim ban and believed that he has no position in judging the policies of the US.

Yet, despite the successes reported by Huessen, it is clear that more effort still needs to be taken to settle Syrian refugees in Canada.   According to the UN refugee agency, 5,605,231 refugees have fled Syria as of March 2018.  The vast majority of Syrian refugees settled in neighboring countries such as Turkey and Lebanon, the former which hosts the largest number of refugees.  In places such as Lebanon, 70% of Syrian refugees live below the poverty line. There are no formal refugee camps and, as a result, Syrians are scattered throughout more than 2,100 urban and rural communities and locations, often sharing small basic lodgings with other refugee families in overcrowded conditions. It is estimated that only 8% of refugees are accommodated in refugee camps.  A similar situation is also occurring in Jordan, where over 655,000 men, women and children have fled to. 80% of these refugees live outside refugee camps, and have limited means to cover even basic needs.

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