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Canada: Nigeria, leads China as choice country for migration, asylum

Canada is emerging as the country of choice for Nigerians as in February this year, data showed that for the 5th year in a  row, more Nigerians emigrated to Canada in 2019 than the year before.

Also, the number of Nigerians issued permanent Residence (PR) permits by the Canadian government has tripled since 2015. In 2019 alone, 12,595 Nigerians were issued the permits.

But while those figures are based on people who moved to Canada through its skilled workers immigration programme, Nigerians are also taking other paths to move to the North American country.

In fact, Nigeria is set to end 2020 with the highest number of finalized asylum claims (i.e claims that were either accepted, rejected, abandoned, or withdrawn) to Canada for the fourth straight year.

Nigeria overtook China as the country with the highest claims back in 2016.  Nigeria’s hold on the top spot is despite a major slowdown in asylum claim rates given global travel restrictions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, generally, Canada has seen a 71 per cent drop in finalized asylum claims so far in 2020.

Paradoxically, while Canada’s skill-based immigration programme offers immediate residency permits and a long-term pathway to citizenship, the country’s perceived openness to immigrants, particularly relative to the US in recent years, means it has also become subject to rising asylum claims as well.

Canada recently announced plans to welcome an additional 1.2 million immigrants over the next three years.

Canada’s ongoing immigration drive to boost its labor force has added to the country’s appeal for middle-class Nigerians who are increasingly pursuing exit plans to leave Nigeria given the country’s ongoing economic travails.

Indeed, for many Nigerians, moving to Canada is also predicated on opening up of increased educational and life opportunities for their children, particularly given Nigeria’s precariously low human capital spending.

In 2018, Nigeria overtook India as the country with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty.

With refugee protection claims typically based on allegations of persecution in a person’s home country, a range of factors have seen Nigerians jump to the front of the queue, including persecution based on religion and sexual orientation.

With homosexuality still criminalized under Nigerian law, it has become an oft-cited reason for Nigerian asylum seekers in Canada: between 2013 to 2017, Nigerians made up about 25 per cent of claims based on sexual orientation.

But the high rate of LGBT-related claims from Nigeria (60 per cent of Nigerians seeking asylum in that period claimed to be bisexual compared to an average of 12 per cent for other nationals) has raised questions that some of the claims may be fabricated.

Political persecution is also emerging as a factor driving these claims as well, especially in the wake of high-profile protests against police brutality in Nigeria.

As several reports and incidents suggest that the Nigerian government is cracking down on the recent cracking down on EndSARS protest organisers, there has been a spike in local interest in Canada’s refugee protection programmes, enough to force the country’s High Commission to Nigeria to clarify the proper channels for seeking these claims.

Obianuju Catherine Udeh, professionally known as DJ Switch, who first revealed that soldiers shot at peaceful #ENDSARS protesters at Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, on October 20, 2020 through live streaming of parts of the incident, is already on self-exile in Canada.

DJ Switch had also testified about the incident in a meeting with the Sub-committee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Canadian parliament.

Copyright Quartz Africa

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