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Canada took in more refugees than any other country in 2018, UN says

Leyland Cecco in Toronto
Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters

Canada took in more refugees than any other country in the world in 2018, according to a United Nations report, knocking the US from its position as global leader in resettling people fleeing war, persecution and conflict.

Canada resettled 28,100 refugees in 2018, overtaking the US for the first time since the 1980 Refugee Act, said the report from the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday.

Related: What is Canada like for a refugee?

In contrast, the US – which has a population nearly 10 times that of Canada – took in 23,000 refugees – a dramatic reduction from a recent high of 97,000 in 2016.

“The sharp drop in US refugee resettlement is in part due to the Trump administration’s decision to set a considerably lower cap on the number of refugees allowed into the US than in previous years,” said a report from the Pew Research Center on the decline, adding the president determines refugee caps.

Canada also leads in per-capita rates, resettling 756 refugees per million residents. Other countries, including Australia (510), Sweden (493) and Norway (465) also had relatively high resettlement rates. The US settled 70 refugees per million residents.

Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has made the resettlement of Syrian refugees a priority for the country, publicly welcoming families at the airport in 2016. Last year, more than 18,000 refugees became Canadian citizens.

While Canada led all other countries, it has also decreased its resettlement rate from a 2016 high of 47,000 refugees. Refugee resettlement globally dipped in 2018 to 92,000 people, down from 103,000 in 2017 and a further drop from 189,000 in 2016.

The UNHCR reported on Wednesday that more than 70 million people have fled conflict and persecution: the highest number since the second world war. Most of those displaced come from the Middle East and are casualties of the Syrian civil war.

UNHCR’s representative in Canada praised the country’s effort so far – but called for more action. “It is time for us to recognize what these refugees bring to Canada, culturally and economically: they make us a stronger and more prosperous society,” said Jean-Nicolas Beuze in a statement. “The Canadian experience shows that welcoming refugees is a win-win. This undoubtedly provides an antidote to the too-often toxic and misleading narratives against displaced people we are hearing globally, and in Canada.”