Refugees are individuals or families who have fled their country of origin due to fear of persecution and are not able to return home. Manitoba has a strong tradition of welcoming refugees. Typically, Manitoba receives between 1,500 and 2,200 refugees per year from many different countries.

The federal department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has two programs under which Canada accepts and supports persons seeking refuge to Canada:

  • The Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program works with people who are seeking protection from outside Canada
  • The In-Canada Asylum Program is for people making refugee protection claims from within Canada

This page provides key facts and information that are most relevant to the Manitoban context. For in depth information on Canadian programs, consult the federal IRCC website at Refugees and Asylum. To learn more about refugees internationally, visit the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) website.

What is the difference between a resettled refugee and a refugee claimant?

Resettled refugees:

  • come through the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program either as government sponsored or privately sponsored refugees.
  • are screened abroad and are permanent residents upon arrival in Canada.
  • can legally work upon arrival but also have access to income support from the federal government or their private sponsors for their first year of settlement.
  • have a wide range of settlement supports available to them.
  • are eligible for the same provincial and federal social supports as other permanent residents (and citizens), as well as some additional supports such as insured benefits for enhanced health services.

Refugee claimants (asylum claimants):

  • make a refugee claim at a port of entry or an inland office within Canada. There, they are screened and determined eligible or ineligible to pursue a claim.
  • have status only as temporary residents.
  • have their claim investigated by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). Only if deemed to fit the definition of Convention refugee will they then have the option of applying for Permanent Residency.
  • are eligible to apply for a temporary work permit.
  • can access some, but not all, of the settlement services available to resettled refugees/permanent residents.
  • are eligible for a range of provincial and federal services such as health care, labour market integration programs, community resources and to apply for Employment and Income Assistance (EIA).

Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program

Via the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, refugees are identified by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or by private sponsors and are brought to Manitoba through either government or private sponsorship.

Government-assisted refugees (GARs) come through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), where refugees are sponsored directly by the Government of Canada. Between 2014 and 2019, about one third of the refugees arriving in Manitoba have been GARs.

The federal government partners with two agencies in Manitoba to deliver the RAP: Accueil Francophone (Winnipeg) and Westman Immigrant Services (Brandon).

Privately sponsored refugees (PSRs) and Blended Visa Office-Referred refugees (BVORs) are sponsored and supported by a variety of groups in the community.

Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) have ongoing agreements with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to directly sponsor and support refugees or collaborate with other groups in the community. In Manitoba, there are 11 SAHs.

Groups can also form temporarily to sponsor refugees on a one-time, or limited, basis. The term "Group of Five" refers to five or more individuals collaborating in this way to support a refugee. The term "Community Sponsors" refers to organizations within communities who sponsor a refugee, usually by mobilizing their membership.

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Refugee claimants living in Manitoba

Through the In-Canada Asylum Program individuals can make an asylum claim in Canada either at a port of entry (POE) or at an inland office of federal department of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). All refugee claimants undergo health and thorough security and background screening.

Asylum claimants can ask for Canada's protection if they fear persecution or risk harm by returning to their home country. Through a claims process, it is determined by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) whether they have a legitimate claim and if by international law fit the definition of a refugee.

The number of refugee claims made in Manitoba fluctuates, depending on external pressures. There was a small surge in 2017, with over 1000 claims, but numbers since then have returned to more typical levels of between 200 to 400 per year.

Refugee Claimants can obtain work permits, access some settlement services, and are eligible for a variety of provincial/federal services, including health care.

To learn more about services available to refugee claimants:

*Because refugee claimants are not permanent residents, they may not be eligible for all services at all settlement agencies. It is best to inquire before visiting an agency to learn if they offer services for refugee claimants.