Canada’s Immigration Minister Marc Miller warned last month that the increases in the number of asylum claims from international students is “alarming” and “totally unacceptable.”

Speaking ahead of cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill, Miller highlighted Toronto’s Seneca College, where asylum claims from international students increased from 300 in 2022 to almost 700 in 2023, and Kitchener’s Conestoga College, where claims jumped from 106 to 450 during that same period, reports The Canadian Press.

“Those numbers have now been officially confirmed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada,” notes Waterloo Region Record in its recently published report.

A CBC investigation last month found that Conestoga led all Canadian colleges and universities with the most international student study permit applications approved in 2023, with 30,395 international students accepted.

This was more than double the next institution on the list, University Canada West B.C., which saw 13,913 international students in 2023. Fanshawe College was third with 11,706 international students.

In 2023, Conestoga College saw over 6,600 students receive approvals for their study permit extensions, more study permit extensions than any other school in the country, according to the Waterloo Region Record.

Miller announced in January that Canada would be introducing measures to stabilize international student numbers due to pressures on housing, health care and services, by capping study permit applications for two years.

The 2024 cap aims for 360,000 permits, a 35 per cent decrease from 2023, with exemptions for master’s, doctoral and K-12 students.

The cost-of-living requirement for study permit applicants was also updated to “better reflect the true cost of living in Canada and help prevent student vulnerability and exploitation.”

New students are required to have at least $20,000 from the previous amount of $10,000.

In a statement, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told The Record that its changes to the international student program should assist in preventing a further increase in asylum claims in the coming years.

“In recent years, we have seen rapid increases in the number of international students arriving in Canada. Some institutions have significantly increased their intakes to drive revenues, and more students have been arriving in Canada without the proper supports they need to succeed,” the federal department said.

International students seeking asylum must demonstrate they face persecution back home, while the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada assesses the application to decide if they require Canada’s protection.

According to CBC, asylum claims from India have been growing, with nearly 3,500 in 2022, about half of which were accepted. Less than 20 claims were accepted from India in 2014.

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