It may be time to take in more refugees, writes Macdonald-Laurier Institute Christian Leuprecht in the Toronto Sun, but that does not mean Canada should let new applicants elbow their way to the front of the line in the midst of the current refugee crisis.
By Christian Leuprecht, Sept. 9, 2015
What’s the magic number of refugees Canada should admit? And how should we decide who gets to come?
There are about 17 million refugees around the world today, a number that has held fairly constant over the past 25 years. Since the start of the Syrian conflict 4 1/2 years ago, a million refugees have sought refuge in Lebanon, about 600,000 in Jordan (which already hosts two million Palestinian refugees), and two million in Turkey.
To resettle that many people is simply not practical. Most refugees have neither the physical nor the financial means to migrate to Europe. They flee to an adjacent country: Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, Jordan … Should we just ignore them in favour of those able to elbow their way to the front of the line?
Of the migrants on which the media has been reporting, UN Refugee Agency data shows 75% are male, mostly young. Their plight is tragic, but that of the mothers, children and elderly left behind is worse. That’s why those who can, leave — or are sent ahead in the hopes they can then sponsor those left behind.
A principled policy gives everyone a fair chance, including Palestinians, Afghans, Somalis, Rohingya and whoever else has been lingering in camps on hell’s half acre for decades: 2.6 million in Pakistan, a million in Iran and 650,000 in Kenya.
Germany, and the European Union, don’t have much of a choice: Most migrants just “show up.” By contrast, most migrants who come to Canada don’t just show up; they’re selected. Canada gets accused of cherry picking: Only 11% of immigrants are refugees. But Canada already has the highest per capita rate of legal immigration in the world: 250,000 a year. Along with the U.S. and Australia, UN figures show Canada is among the top three refugee resettlement countries in the world.
By dint of geography, those three countries also have the luxury of a principled refugee policy: One that gives all refugees a reasonable chance — and ensures they’re actually admissible. After all, those crying foul over Canada’s current bureaucratic impediments would be the first to express outrage if a war criminal were to slip into the country because Canada “relaxed the rules.”
Canada also gives preference to those who already have connections here, so-called “sponsored” refugees, because research shows they integrate better, more quickly, and more successfully than refugees with no prior links.
Canada’s ability to reconcile diversity, social harmony and economic prosperity suggests its approach is better calibrated than current outrage would suggest. To be sure, Canada could do more; as could any number of other countries. But that won’t solve the “crisis.” Countries of origin for refugees are all plagued by internecine violence: Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Congo, Myanmar, Central African Republic, Iraq … Canada’s priority needs to be a sustained (and sustainable) commitment to making these politically, economically and socially viable spaces for their populations. That’s the way to optimize Canada’s impact for the greatest number of people — while serving our interest by enhancing regional stability.
Days ago the cash-strapped World Food Program had to stop issuing food vouchers to a third of Syrian refugees. That will push many more to embark on the perilous journey to Europe’s shores, and further exacerbate the humanitarian crisis.
— Dr. Christian Leuprecht is professor at the Royal Military College of Canada and Queen’s University, and a senior fellow at the Macdonald Laurier Institute