A note from the editor.

Author:Aiken, Sharry J.

In a recent news release on Canada's overall immigration intake for 2010, the government asserted that the country had "maintained its humanitarian tradition" by welcoming 4,833 privately sponsored refugees to Canada, 63 percent more than in 2005. (1)

Viewed positively, this statistic might be a signal of a strong commitment to refugees and a progressive refugee policy. However, the real news behind the latest numbers of privately sponsored refugees admitted to Canada is the fact that the refugee program has shrunk over the past decade-both in terms of raw numbers as well as percentage distribution. (2) Canada may be a leading country of refugee resettlement, accepting one out of every ten refugees resettled globally--but the fact remains that the number of refugees being admitted to Canada in any given year (less than 25,000 in 2010)--are an increasingly smaller fraction of the overall immigration program and a tiny share--less than one percent--of the world's forcibly displaced. To put these numbers in perspective it helps to recall that there are at least 43 million people displaced worldwide (unofficial estimates are higher), including over 15 million refugees-more than half of whom have been warehoused in camps for five years or more in the global south. (3) Asylum claims in Canada--in concert with other industrialized countries are much lower than a decade ago. Indeed, according to a recent study by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of asylum applications in Canada fell 30 percent in 2010, part of an overall decline in asylum claims in Western countries. (4) High Commissioner Ant6nio Guterres has suggested that "[w]e need to study the root causes to see if the decline is because of fewer push factors in areas of origin, or tighter migration control in countries of asylum." (5) In the face of recent emergencies in Libya and the C6te d'Ivoire, longstanding conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia as well as ongoing abuses in Sri Lanka and China--just to cite a few examples (6)--there should be little doubt that heightened regulation of migration and border control are significant factors in the shifting dynamics of asylum worldwide. The mass arrests of Sri Lankan Tamils in Bangkok last fall, many of whom were registered with the UNHCR, were a direct result of Canada's new anti-human smuggling program in Southeast Asia and a clear manifestation of refugee interdiction. (7)

Exacerbated by 9/11 and a moral panic about...

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