In 2017, the majority of refugees crossing the border irregularly into Canada were citizens of Dijbouti, Eritrea, Haiti, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan, Turkey, and Yemen. People also came from other places like Afghanistan, Somalia and Columbia. These countries are affected in different ways by armed conflict, persecution, torture, human rights abuses, genocide, terrorism, sexual violence and even famine. In some places people have endured decades of upheaval and displacement (see brief info on some countries in the PDF document below). Imagine for one moment what it would be like to be in their shoes. Too often refugees are rejected or stigmatized, but they are only human beings like us, fleeing terrible situations and seeking safety. Refugees are not the problem; the causes of refugee movements are the real problem.
Those who come to Canada represent a minute percentage of the more than 65 million people who are currently forcibly displaced worldwide. In 2017 Canada received a total of 49,775 refugee claims. While this is higher than in recent years, it is similar to the 44,695 claims made in 2001. Refugee movements are not predictable and variations in the annual number of claims received are inevitable. We are fortunate to live in a prosperous, safe and stable country. So, when compared to the nearly 1 million refugees found in Uganda, the 1.4 million in Pakistan and the 2.9 million in Turkey, it does seem that Canada could do more.
People seeking asylum want to work and regain a measure of control over their shattered lives. Once considered eligible to make a refugee claim, they can apply for a work permit. Some asylum seekers will need the basic social assistance from the provincial government (in Quebec it is $628/month for a single person) until they find work. This is in line with the majority of western countries where support to asylum seekers paid as a direct benefit or via reception centers is the norm. And it's important to remember that refugees have contributed significantly to Canada and will continue to do so (read and watch here the individual stories of refugees who have come to Canada: www.unhcr.org/then-and-now).