Twice An Asylum Seeker. Why Are So Many People Illegally Crossing Into Canada?

Behind The News. What The Data On Asylum Seekers Crossing Illegally Into Canada Shows

Baur Safi
Baur Safi
Oct 12, 2017 · 3 min read

Update: I am glad to add a link to a post by Sammy Packard he made recently. Sammy’s post uncovers a similar situation with Haitian refugees in Mexico. Please find time to read it too.

Stories about people fleeing from the United States to Canada have made the headline news in the past few months. You can read more on the subject (here and here). We, at the Data Journalism Meetup in Washington, DC decided to follow up on this topic and seeking your input and may be a personal story to share if it has affected your life.

As first step and initial findings, we researched the data on the number of people applying for asylum in Canada provided by the Open Government initiative of the Government of Canada in response to our FOIA. You can find this and related data here. One of the reports shows the number of people officially seeking asylum by their country of citizenship, but based on 2016 numbers. So if anything happened in the past 9 months might have mixed up into the other countries’ data.

As you can see from the chart below, the number of people seeking asylum in Canada in the past two and a half years has been growing steadily.

But if you look at the break down by their country of citizenship you might not be surprised:

(Thank you Samuel Packard for your sharp eye)

As mentioned above, we reached out to the Open Government Initiative and submitted an FOIA asking them to show a similar report but only for 2017. The result was surprising. In the chart above I actually incorporated this new data, but take a look at the same data just for this year.

You can access this dataset here.

So, to summarize our current findings and move forward, we must answer the following questions we raised and on which we would like to ask for your input:

  1. For Haitians we assume the driving factor was the speculations of President Trumps’s administration that the Temporary Protected Status will be terminated. In light of this announcement, have we actually already observed a past similar exodus of TPS holders from the United States to other countries?
  2. There was also a surge of US citizens applying for asylum in Canada in the same period. What do we know about them? Are they the children of Haitians who were born in the United States in the past five years?
  3. Apart from Canada, is there data that shows how many people seek for asylum in other countries not only by their ethnicity/nationality but also by where they come from?

We invite you to participate in this research by joining our Slack group or in the comments below with any ideas, feedback or suggestions you might have.

Thank you!

Baurjan Safi

Flavius Mihaies

Jesse Howe

Samuel Packard


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Baur Safi

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Baur Safi

Data Scientist


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