Canadians Want Federal Government To Help Refugees More: Amnesty

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may be riding high on a wave of public opinion, but a majority of Canadians think the government can do more to help refugees, according to a recent survey.

The human rights advocacy group ranked Canada fourth in a list of 27 countries with the most-welcoming attitudes toward refugees surveyed from Amnesty International earlier this month.

amnesty most welcoming refugees

Twenty-seven countries were ranked a score out of 100 based on their acceptance of refugees. A 100 score suggests all respondents would welcome refugees to their neighbourhood or home. (Chart: Amnesty International)

Seventy-six per cent of Canadians surveyed said they would welcome refugees into the country, their communities, and even their homes.

Among the respondents, 87 per cent said they support the right of refugees to escape war and persecution by fleeing to other countries. Amnesty data suggests women were more likely to be compassionate than men.

Sixty-six per cent said Canadians think the government can do more to help those fleeing persecution, while 31 per cent think things are fine the way they are.

Amnesty International surveyed 27,000 people from 27 countries.

syrian refugees welcome toronto

China on top, with a catch

But there's an interesting twist to Amnesty’s most-welcoming list worthy of note: the three countries at the top are China, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

All are countries with governments that have often faced backlash over their varied — and sometimes controversial — refugee policies.

Eighty-five per cent of those surveyed in China said they would welcome refugees into their communities, or their own households — earning the country a spot at the top of the list.

It’s a relatively surprising No. 1 placement for an authoritarian country with its longstanding reputation of curbing fundamental human rights.

“These figures speak from themselves. People are ready to make refugees welcome, but government's’ inhumane responses to the refugee crisis are badly out of touch with the view of their own citizens.”

But according to Amnesty International’s secretary general, it’s a loud signal that Chinese government actions and policies are out of touch with public opinion on the issue.

“These figures speak from themselves. People are ready to make refugees welcome, but government's’ inhumane responses to the refugee crisis are badly out of touch with the view of their own citizens,” Salil Shetty said in a release.

Chinese authorities allowed just under 800 UN-registered “persons of concern” into the country last year. Most were from Somalia, Nigeria, Iraq, and Liberia, temporarily living in China while waiting for their transfers to be processed.

Thirty-five percent of those “persons of concern” were refugees or asylum seekers from Syria.

China’s stance and recent gaffes by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron are stark difference to the one adopted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Last year, Germany welcomed over 1.1 million migrants through its open-borders policy.

justin trudeau xi jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping, third right, meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Antalya, Turkey on Nov. 16, 2015. (Photo: Xinhua/Rao Aimin via Getty Images)

Canadian model praised

As of mid-May, over 27,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since the end of 2015.

It’s a six-month achievement that’s been praised the world over. From accolades by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, to a segment on "The Daily Show."

Canada’s history of adopting policies allowing the private sponsorship of refugees has been credited as one of the pillars to its success as a nation.

Studies suggests privately-sponsored refugees are more likely to have better outcomes than those supported by the government because of the program’s reliance on strong community support.

The tone set by leaders affects public opinion and response, too.

“It is true that some people are afraid here as well, but as everywhere you have people that are supportive and people that are more timid in this and I think leaders should utilize the good forces to create a positive environment. This was done here, there is no doubt,” Grandi said in March.

With a file from The Canadian Press

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