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|
|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|
|Dominican Republic||0||0.6||3||28||12||11||266.66666666667||1.057309947816||Cuba, Islamic Rep. of Iran, Sri Lanka|
|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, ..|
|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||..|
|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|
|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|
|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.