Nigerian, Turkish nationals led asylum claims in early 2017

Citizens of Nigeria and Turkey led the pack when it came to asylum claims filed in Canada in the first three months of 2017, new government data shows.

In total, the federal immigration department has reported that 8,960 people filed claims for asylum during the period between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2017.

Of those, 620 were from Nigeria and another 580 were from Turkey. Rounding out the top five countries of origin were Haiti (475), Pakistan (350) and Syria (315).

The number of claimants from the United States is on the rise, the data shows, growing from 60 claims from U.S. citizens in January to 150 in March, with a three-month total of 295 — well above many developing nations on the list. The were 265 claims made by Mexicans, who — as of December 2016 — no longer require a visa to enter Canada.

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The numbers are not broken down by the location from where the asylum claimants filed their paperwork. Some may have crossed on foot illegally over the Canada-U.S. border, while others may have filed their claims at an airport, legal land border crossing, or inland at a government office.

READ MORE: Number of asylum seekers continues to rise, especially in Quebec

Regardless of where they apply, would-be asylum seekers go through extensive medical, security and background checks before their files are referred on to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB).

The detailed breakdown was released this week as part of an answer to an Order Paper question tabled in the House of Commons in February by Conservative MP Candice Bergen.

The IRB, which examines asylum claims and determines which ones are valid based on a variety of factors, also released its totals for January through March in response to Bergen’s question.

The board reported that, of 8,204 new refugee protection claims registered in its offices in those three months, 436 (or 5.3 per cent) were accepted, or received a “positive” outcome.

Another 140, or just under two per cent, were rejected and a further one per cent were abandoned or withdrawn. The remaining 7,541 new claims in those first three months of 2017 are still pending, awaiting a decision.

READ MORE: Anyone crossing border illegally whose claim is rejected will be sent home, not back to U.S.

By comparison, the board had a total of 16,900 claims referred for processing in all of 2015, and 16,279 referrals in the first nine months of last year.

The IRB projected 17,500 files would be referred this year. But if the pace in the first three months of 2017 keeps up, the number of new claims this year referred to the board could be significantly higher.

The total number of asylum claims made in Canada has fluctuated widely over the years, according to the immigration department, with a high of 44,600 claims in 2001 and low of around 10,000 in 2013.

The number of refugees across the globe today is the highest since the end of the Second World War, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

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