The Alrajab family enjoying their home in Saint John, New Brunswick. From left to right: Mother Shamsa; Sarah, 11; Muhammed, 5; Barraa, 7; Adnan, 12; Abdullah, 9 and Father Nasser. © Courtesy of Miranda O’Leary Photography

The Alrajab family enjoying their home in Saint John, New Brunswick. From left to right: Mother Shamsa; Sarah, 11; Muhammed, 5; Barraa, 7; Adnan, 12; Abdullah, 9 and Father Nasser. © Courtesy of Miranda O’Leary Photography

OTTAWA, Canada, April 24 (UNHCR) – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) praised Canada today for providing solutions to the plight of a record 46,700 refugees through their resettlement to Canada in 2016. This is the largest amount of refugees admitted in a year since the implementation of the 1976 Immigration Act and a significant contribution to UNHCR’s global appeal to increase much needed refugee solutions.

“This is a tremendous achievement which reflects Canada’s longstanding tradition of welcoming refugees and assisting them with their integration into Canadian society,” said Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Representative in Canada. “Without this support, scores of refugees would have been left in life-threatening situations and without any hope. Canada has again shown the world that successful resettlement is possible, particularly when government and civil society work together. Building on this success, UNHCR will continue to work closely with Canada to expand resettlement solutions to benefit the most vulnerable refugees.”

“Canada is proud to work with UNHCR to bring vulnerable refugees to our country. These newcomers help us build our society, culture and economy in long lasting and enduring ways,” said the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. “Canada hopes to increase global refugee resettlement and support ‎civil society and other jurisdictions to expand resettlement along with developing other solutions for the world’s most vulnerable.”

Historically, Canada’s largest resettlement effort was with the Indochinese movement, which at its high point resulted in 40,271 refugees being admitted in 1980. In 1986, the Nansen Medal was awarded to Canada and its people in recognition of its response to the Indochinese Movement that directly helped thousands of persecuted individuals to start new lives Canada. Thirty years later, Canada proves once again that the same spirit of compassion and altruism continues to be present.

Compared to 2015, the 2016 resettlement level reflects a striking 133 per cent increase. This is due in part to the success of Canada’s humanitarian transfer of Syrian refugees carried throughout 2016 with UNHCR’s support, and which combined efforts by both the government and civil society to support the resettlement and integration of Syrian refugees into various communities across Canada.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to come to Canada. Having two of my children going to school and the smiles I now see on the faces of my other three disabled children is a dream come true. Back home, they would have been made fun of, or ignored, but here, everyone wants to help out,” says Shamsa, a Syrian mother of five who arrived to Canada in 2016. “I am so touched by this and can’t wait to also give back to the community.”

With the current levels of forcible displacement worldwide (21 million refugees) and an estimated 1,190,000 individuals in need of resettlement in 2017, UNHCR continues to appeal to countries, including Canada, for solidarity with refugees: only one per cent of refugees ever get a chance to be resettled. Resettlement continues to be a unique and tangible response to those in need of protection as it offers extremely vulnerable refugees an opportunity to restart their lives in safety and dignity.

Over the last four decades, Canada has generously welcomed some 700,000 refugees.

For information on Canada’s resettlement programs >

For information on resettlement in Canada >

For information on Shamsa and family >

Gisèle Nyembwe
Public Information Associate, UNHCR Canada
Tel: (613) 232-0909, extension 225

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been protecting, for over 65 years, the rights and well-being of refugees all over the world. It works to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence, persecution, war or disaster at home.
UNHCR Canada or tUNHCR Global

The Nansen Refugee Award is given annually to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, legendary Norwegian polar explorer, scientist and the League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Nansen Refugee Award

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