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The exodus of Nigerian immigrants to Canada is showing no signs of slowing down.
For the fifth year in a row, more Nigerians emigrated to Canada than the year before as data published by the Canadian government shows the number of Nigerians issued permanent resident permits has tripled since 2015. It’s a growth rate that outstrips some of Canada’s biggest sources of immigrants over the last five years, including India, China and Philippines.
The rise in Nigerian immigrants heading to Canada reflects the North American country’s push to expand its labor force and lower the average age of its workers as its population advances in years. In 2019, Canada welcomed 341,000 immigrants in total (about 10,000 more it targeted) as part of its immigration policy to attract skilled workers.
For middle-class Nigerians increasingly looking to emigrate, Canada holds appeal for several reasons. Its ongoing drive to increase skill-based immigration offers a legal and long-term path not just to residency permits but also citizenship. It’s a prospect that’s alluring given Nigeria’s ongoing economic and insecurity travails, with the political class not appearing any closer to providing the kind of leadership required to turn around the country’s fortunes. In 2018, Nigeria overtook India as the country with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty. And, given precariously low human capital spending on education and healthcare, it’s a reality that will endure for, at least, a generation.
For Nigerians who can afford to relocate, the chance for their children to access better education standards —and the future opportunities that come with it—has also proven to be a major factor. Like most other immigrant groups, Nigerians moving to Canada mostly settle in Ontario.
The high interest in moving to Canada also means not everyone takes the legal route, with illegal border crossings via upstate New York an increasingly popular path. As of September 2019, Nigeria had, by far, the highest number of pending refugee protection claims in Canada.
It’s unlikely that immigration levels from Nigeria to Canada will drop anytime soon. With the appetite for emigration not dampening, Canada’s liberal and welcoming immigration policy is not only attractive but also at odds with other major Western countries. In the wake of Brexit, the United Kingdom has tightened immigration policies. For its part, the United States has recently banned Nigerians from receiving immigration visas as part of a new wave of restrictions from the Trump administration’s already long history of tough immigration clampdowns on Nigeria.
In contrast, Canada is projected to welcome nearly 700,000 immigrants over the next two years.