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Numbers suggest link between political activity, refugee claims

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Vincentians have been applying for refugee status in Canada for at least the last 19 years, Canadian government statistics show.{{more}}

The legislation was amended in 1993, so the numbers cannot be provided, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada told SEARCHLIGHT last week.

Since 1993, the number of Vincentians claiming refugee status in Canada has fluctuated from year to year, but with an overall upward trend, records show.

Between 1993 and June 2012 — the latest period for which statistics are available — 5,711 Vincentians applied for refugee status in Canada. Of those claims, 5,077 — 88.89 per cent — were finalised. Of those finalised, 1612 — 31.76 per cent — were granted refugee status.

The cases not finalised were either abandoned or withdrawn.

There most likely is no single reason for the increase in applications over the last 19 years.

But the records show pronounced increases during periods of heightened political activity, as in 2000, 2005 and 2010.

In 2000, there was the “Road Block Revolution” that led to early election in March 2001, during the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) fourth straight term in office.

While figures are only available for eight of NDP’s 17 years in office, the numbers show a drastic increase in refugee claims from 2001, when the Unity Labour Party (ULP) came to office.

From 1993 to 2000, the last full calendar year when the NDP was in office, 462 persons applied for refugee status — an average of 57.75 claims per year.

The ULP came to office in March 2001, and from 2001 to June this year, there were 5,070 claims — an average of 422.5 annually.

However, more research is needed to determine if there is a link between the ULP coming to office and the number of refugee claims, which fluctuated from year-to-year, but remained significantly higher than during the NDP years.

For example, the number of claimants in 2008, when the global financial crisis struck, increased by 142 year-on-year, to 498 — a jump of 28.51 per cent.

It further climbed to 650 the following year and 712 in 2010.

During the ULP years, the statistics show, this nation also recorded its highest number of applicants in a year, the highest number of accepted claims, and the highest percentage in these categories, while the nation’s population is believed to have got progressively smaller.

In 2010, when the country was embroiled in a bitter elections campaign and amidst the global financial crisis, this country registered the highest number of refugee claims in a single year: 712.

2009, 2008, and 2005 — another election year, round off the top five highest number of claims per year: 650, 498, and 418, respectively.

2005 was the first time SVG made the top 10 list of countries whose citizens filed inland asylum claims in Canada.

In 2000, another year during which there was unrest, leading up to the general elections of 2001, there were 97 applicants, while there were 74 in 1997; 69 in 1998; 64 in 199; and 59 in 1996.

Under the ULP administration, Canada accepted the largest number of Vincentian refugees in a single year: 287 of the 826 cases finalised in 2011.

This is followed by 236 of 736 in 2010; 187 of 463 from January to June this year; 147 of 411 in 2006 and 129 of 323 in 2009.

Based on the figures available, under the NDP, the largest number of Vincentian refugees accepted by Canada in a single year was 17 of 70 cases finalised in 2000. The same number was accepted in 1999, when 94 cases were finalised.

This is followed by 12 of 85 in 1998, and six of 22 in 1996 and six of 53 in 1997.

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