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Asylum seeking in the Americas

Asylum seeking in Latin America and the Caribbean remains generally an uncommon phenomenon, with rates on average at 30 requests per million in 2013, which are at about one seventh those observed in Canada and the United States (Table 3). The number of requests has dropped since 2011 by about a fourth to a little over 18 thousand, largely the consequence of a large fall in claims in Ecuador from Colombian nationals, as civil conflict in Colombia has abated in recent years. Brazil, on the other hand, from the 1100-plus level observed in 2012 has bounced back in 2013 to approximately the level of 2011 (over 4700 requests), due at that time to an influx of Haitian nationals following the 2010 earthquake in that country.

The new increase in Brazil comes from entirely different source countries, however, with Bangladesh, Senegal and Lebanon being the three most important origin countries. With the growing presence of Brazil on the world stage and in the global economy and the increase in public attention given that country in the period leading to the World Cup, Brazil has become “discovered” as a possible refuge country for asylum seekers. The number of requests remains low compared to levels observed in OECD countries, but the countries of origin are from outside the region, in contrast to other Latin American countries, where requests tend to come from other countries of the Americas.

Other countries where Bangladeshi claimants are prominent, albeit in small numbers, include Colombia, Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago. Costa Rica and Panama are notable in having a high rate of requests (close to 200 requests per million population) and relatively large numbers of claimants (close to 1000) for such relatively small countries. 

In Canada, requests have more than halved since 2011, with a new federal law in 2012 identifying safe countries of origin for which requests for asylum are not accepted and, for other countries, accelerating procedures for manifestly unfounded claims. 2013 saw requests in Canada from nationals of China, India, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, North Korea and Saint Lucia plummet.

Noteworthy is the appearance of asylum claimants in recent years from Syria, which is also the most important origin country for the OECD zone as a whole. In Latin America, Syria appears among the top three origin countries in Argentina (where it is the top country of origin), Bolivia and Chile. In the Caribbean as a whole, Syria is the second country of origin of claimants, after Cuba.  Cuba appears as an important source country in many countries of the Americas.

Table 3. Asylum seekers in the Americas, 2001-2013

  Average 2001-2005 Average 2006-2010 2010 2011 2012 2013 % change 2013/2010 Number per million population (2013) Principal countries of origin
Country of asylum
Canada 32401.8 28505.6 22543 24985 20223 10356 -54.061127622765 294.35754447823 China, Pakistan, Colombia    
United States 49084.2 40392.6 42971 60587 66101 68243 58.811756766191 213.22558141067 China, Mexico, El Salvador    
Canada and the United States 81486 68898.2 65514 85572 86324 78599 19.972830234759 221.26077343954 China, Mexico, El Salvador    
Antigua and Barbuda 0 0 0 0 0 1       11.112963271656 Syrian Arab Republic
Aruba 0 0.2 1 3 5 0       0 ..
Bahamas 27 0.2 1 9 50 95 9400 251.73965350024 Cuba, Haiti    
Barbados 0 0 0 0 0 2       7.0263205969562 Syrian Arab Republic, Cuba
British Virgin Islands 0 1.2 0 1 0 3       105.85371017254 Cuba
Cayman Islands 0 0 0 1 0 33       564.73004192693 Cuba, Mexico
Cuba 42.2 17.8 23 6 63 29 26.086956521739 2.5742015825304 Syrian Arab Republic, Islamic Rep. of Iran, Various    
Dominica 0 0 0 1 0 0       0 ..
Dominican Republic 0 0.6 3 28 12 11 266.66666666667 1.057309947816 Cuba, Islamic Rep. of Iran, Sri Lanka    
Grenada 0 0.6 3 0 0 0       0 ..
Guyana 0 0 0 1 0 0       0 ..
Haiti 0 4.6 1 2 8 12 1100 1.1630768461349 Cuba, Dem. Rep. of the Congo, Sri Lanka    
Jamaica 0 0 0 0 1 4       1.4368394130798 Syrian Arab Republic, Cuba, ..
Montserrat 0 0 .. 0 0 0       0 ..
Netherlands Antilles 0 0 .. 0 0 0       0 ..
Puerto Rico 0 0 .. 0 0 0       0 ..
Saint Kitts and Nevis 0 0 0 0 1 1       18.453248694433 Egypt
Saint Lucia 0 1.4 3 2 0 1 -66.666666666667 5.4862760803849 Syrian Arab Republic    
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 0 0 0 1 0 0       0 ..
Suriname 0 1.4 7 4 0 0       0 ..
Trinidad and Tobago 0 49.4 22 29 5 44       32.807640601245 Cuba, Mexico, Bangladesh
Turks and Caicos Islands 0 0 0 3 24 9       271.91975345942 Cuba, Sierra Leone, Nigeria
United States Virgin Islands 0 0 .. 0 0 0       0 ..
Caribbean 69.2 77.4 64 91 169 245 282.8125 5.7285191637671 Cuba, Syrian Arab Republic, Mexico    
Belize 20.6 12.4 25 32 58 52 108 156.67369689666 El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras    
Costa Rica 2437.4 961.4 991 964 1170 954 -3.7336024217962 195.80613632623 Colombia, El Salvador, Cuba    
El Salvador 9.8 36.6 55 15 4 7 -87.272727272727 1.1040218886534 Honduras, Various    
Guatemala 32.6 29.8 15 21 18 48 220 3.1031400350771 El Salvador, India, Bangladesh    
Honduras 75.4 40.8 68 9 9 57 -16.176470588235 7.0390462067691 Nicaragua    
Mexico 407.6 578 1039 753 811 1296 24.735322425409 10.594086363008 Honduras, El Salvador, Cuba    
Nicaragua 15 112.6 120 39 69 105 -12.5 17.268379229396 El Salvador, Honduras, Pakistan    
Panama 203 388.4 601 1396 756 827 37.603993344426 214.01749923011 Colombia, Cuba, Ghana    
Central America 3201.4 2160 2914 3229 2895 3346 14.824982841455 19.989550232611 Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador    
Bolivia (Plurinational State of) 20.6 74.6 48 32 36 20 -58.333333333333 1.874203463528 Colombia, Syrian Arab Republic, Various    
Colombia 31.8 159.8 161 84 99 229 42.23602484472 4.7391006118303 Cuba, Somalia, Bangladesh    
Ecuador* 19496 14647 2227 1041 958 966 -56.623259991019 61 Colombia    
Peru 134.2 250.6 289 466 377 440 52.249134948097 14.485309147608 Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic    
Andean Region 19109 15132 2725 1623 1470 1655 -39.266055045872 16 Colombia, Cuba, Bangladesh    
Argentina 349.8 663 796 871 1467 614 -22.86432160804 14.814369436499 Syrian Arab Republic, Cuba, Colombia    
Paraguay 10.8 18.8 13 25 10 3 -76.923076923077 0.44102762376521 Cuba, Uruguay, Sri Lanka    
Uruguay 14.4 25.6 21 20 37 37 76.190476190476 10.859796505024 Colombia, Peru, Various    
Brazil 553.2 705 1087 4980 1124 4724 334.59061637535 23.577333867201 Bangladesh, Senegal, Lebanon    
Chile 158.8 492.2 260 305 168 249 -4.2307692307692 14.13190275344 Colombia, Syrian Arab Republic, Various    
Southern Cone 1087 1904.6 2177 6201 2806 5627 158.47496554892 20.868779414428 Bangladesh, Senegal, Colombia    
All countries of the Americas 93828 88172 73394 96716 93664 89472 21.906422868354 95 China, Colombia, Mexico    
- less Canada and the United States 12342 19274 7880 11144 7340 10873 38 18 Colombia, Bangladesh, Senegal    
All OECD countries 464361.4 334735.8 345340 422012 462713 554147 60.464180228181 435.07764259891 Syrian Arab Republic, Russian Federation, Iraq    

 

Asylum seeking in many countries of the Americas, like immigration generally tends to be a regional phenomenon, reflecting movements of persons fleeing civil conflict or poverty, rather than persecution per se. The seriousness of the refugee situation in Syria, however, is clearly having spillover effects even into the Americas, as nationals from that country seek refuge in countries all over the planet.

The nature of the asylum regime, namely that requests must be examined on the territory of the destination country and claimants granted a temporary right of residence in the interim, often make this an avenue for immigration by persons who are fleeing conflict zones, who need temporary protection or who might otherwise find it difficult to obtain a regular visa. The asylum regime, originally instituted as a vehicle for persons fleeing persecution, has thus by the force of circumstances been used by persons fleeing or leaving their countries of origin in much more diverse situations. This is evident in the Americas as it is elsewhere.