Frequently Asked Questions

Who is a refugee?

The 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees defines a Convention Refugee as any person who, by reason of a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion,

  • is outside the country of his or her nationality and is unable or, by reason of that fear, unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country; or,
  • not having a country of nationality, is outside the country of his or her former habitual residence and is unable or, by reason of that fear, unwilling to return to that country.
What are the top ten source countries of refugees?

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of mid-2014, Syria became the top source country of refugees, accounting for 23% (or over 3 million refugee)  of all refugees under the UNHCR mandate. Afghanistan is the second largest source country with 2.7 million refugees followed by Somalia with 1.1 million refugees.

The table below shows the top ten source countries of refugees in 2013 and 2014:


Retrieved from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Facts and figures about refugees. Copyright 2001-2012.

How is a refugee recognized in Canada?

A refugee claimant is a person who is asking for protection in Canada. Some individuals make a refugee claim upon entering Canada to an officer of the Canada Border Services Agency, while others make their refugee claim to an officer of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada at an office inside Canada. If the claim is found eligible, it is referred to the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board for determination, normally after an oral hearing. Those who receive a positive decision on their refugee claim are granted Protected Person status in Canada and may apply for Permanent Residence.

How many refugees does Canada accept?


According to the IRCC, Canada received just over 16,000 refugee claims at inland offices and ports of entry in 2015. According to the UNHCR, Canada resettled over 12,000 refugees and granted refugee status to fewer than 10,000 refugees in Canada in 2014.

How can I sponsor a refugee?

There are a few different ways to sponsor a refugee. One way to sponsor a refugee in Québec is by contacting an organization like Action Réfugiés who has an agreement with the provincial government to submit a certain number of refugee files per year. Each organization that has an agreement with government works a little bit differently and sets their own criteria in terms of who they work with and how. Please see our sponsorship page to know more about how we work at ARM.

Another way to sponsor a refugee is through the group of 2-5 program offered by the Québec government:

How many refugees are there in the world?

Figures on refugees vary immensely from different sources. According to the United Nations High Commission of Refugees, by mid-2014, there were 18 million registered refugees in the world. This figure does not include an additional 51.2 million forcibly Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) uprooted within their own country.

UNHCR also estimated that there were at least 10 million stateless people by the end of 2013. A stateless person is an individual who is not considered a national or a citizen by any state in the world.

How is a refugee recognized overseas?

In order to be recognized as a refugee overseas, one must register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

To locate the UNHCR office or the comparable local authority closest to you, please use this web site.

How can I be sponsored to come to Canada?

Canada has a refugee sponsorship program. To come to Canada under this program you can either be selected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and recommended to the government of Canada, or sponsored through an organization that has an agreement with the government.

At Action Réfugiés Montréal we have a refugee sponsorship program, which has an agreement with the government. However, we are only able to help people who are living in the area of Montreal and who are family members of the refugee, among other criteria. You can find out more about our sponsorship program here.

If you have a friend or family member in a city outside of Québec who would like to initiate a private refugee sponsorship, you can use the link here to identify sponsorship agreement holders across Canada.

How can I help refugees?

There are many ways you can help refugees depending on your resources, time, and interests. For instance, you and your friend(s) and/or family could;

  • Sponsor a refugee or refugee family, please see our sponsorship page for more information;
  • Make a financial donation to support an organization that works directly with this population either locally or internationally;
  • Donate material goods such as winter clothing, furniture, non-perishable food, etc; or
  • Volunteer your time to support an organization working with refugees locally