Nigerians’ immigration to Canada booms amid economic downturn, hardship
Nigerians migrating to Canada have increased following the current worsening economic hardship and lack of hope in the country.
Immigration experts have said the exodus of Nigerian immigrants to Canada is showing no signs of slowing down because of the current economic situation of the country.
Experts also say Canada offers high quality education and the country is immigration friendly, thereby pushing several Nigerians seeking greener pastures to the country.
For the fifth year in a row, more Nigerians migrated to Canada than the year before as data published by the Canadian government show the number of Nigerians issued permanent resident permits has tripled since 2015.
The number of Canadian Permanent Resident Permits issued to Nigerians increased from 4,000 in 2015, to 4,500 in 2016, to 6,000 in 2017, to 11,000 in 2018 and to N12,000 in 2019.
Experts say though the figures for 2020 have not been released yet, the figures are likely to double.
It is 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 migrants heading to Canada defects the North American country’s push to expand its labour 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 immigration policy to attract skilled workers.
According to Bernard Bankole, former president, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), in an interview with BusinessDay, travel agents now sell more tickets to Nigerians travelling to Canada since the resumption of international flights.
“There has been a significant increase in the number of people travelling to Canada. Canada has opened its borders and they want skilled people to come in. I have observed that people who have been travelling to Canada are travelling with their families to settle in Canada,” Bankole said.
The economic environment is not favourable, he said, adding that in the past, the downtrodden, bricklayers, carpenters and other low level people run abroad for greener pastures.
He went on to say now the middle class created during President Obasanjo’s era was also running to Canada.
“During Obasanjo’s era, people were coming from abroad to Nigeria to find jobs. That was when we had telecoms upsurge. Sadly, people are now moving back to Canada because it is easier to get citizenship and papers. Canada’s weather has not been so friendly but Nigerians don’t mind to endure.
“In those areas that are very cold, there are job opportunities. Another reason for this increase is coupled with the fact that America became tougher with the immigration rules,” Bankole said.
Taiwo Roluga, an immigration Consultant, said Canada is one of the top destinations for young Nigerian adults seeking a degree because of the high quality of the educational system.
In Lagos, there are several posters of agencies advertising the possibility of studying in Canada for those interested.
Within the last decade, there has been a noticeable increase of young Nigerians furthering their education in Canada. This no doubt has helped increase the number of Nigerians there.
Ikechi Uko, a travel expert, told BusinessDay that Canada is next to America, considering job opportunities and a good economy, adding that if people cannot get American visa, they choose Canada.
According to Uko, “Canada has a much more conducive environment for immigrants and they have huge land mass and a small population. So, they need to populate their country but they choose who comes in. They are recreating their country, there is a policy and they are following that plan.”
Anytime there is a collapse of the economy, the young people move out, he explained, stating that the same trend happened during Babaginda and Abacha’s regimes.
“Now, we are having a large number moving out because of the collapse of the economy. Once people went abroad in the 1960s and 1970s, they went to school but now most people are going for greener pastures.
“Canada has the best immigration system now that favours Nigerians. Canada is looking for musicians, journalists and people of different capacities. A lot of Nigerians meet the standard of what they are expecting,” he said.
Kareem el-Assal, managing editor of CIC News and director of policy and digital strategy at Canada Visa, said Nigeria had become the fourth-leading source country of new immigrants to Canada, behind India, China, and the Philippines.
El-Assal disclosed that a total of 12,600 Nigerians gained permanent residence last year, which represents a tripling of Nigerian immigration to Canada since 2015.
He stated that the vast majority of Nigerians came to Canada as economic class immigrants, adding that the main way that Canada manages economic class immigration applications is through Express Entry, and 65 percent of Nigerian immigrants gained Canadian permanent resident status through Express Entry in 2019.
“Canada’s openness to immigrants also runs in stark contrast to other countries, which have historically welcomed high levels of Nigerian immigrants, such as the United States and Great Britain. The recent US decision to expand its travel ban to include Nigeria may result in more prospective Nigerian immigrants looking to Canada,” he said.
More Nigerians are also studying in Canada. There are currently around 12,000 Nigerian students in Canada, and these students will be well-placed to transition to permanent resident status due to their youth, English language fluency, Canadian education, and Canadian work experience.