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Expensive federal rural resettlement programs for refugees are having little effect in swaying asylum seekers to move to small communities.

Statistics Canada recently conducted a study revealing that less than 1% of government-assisted refugees want to settle in rural areas, opting instead for bustling metropolitan cities.

The trend reflects a tendency among refugees in Canada to gravitate towards major urban centres, even in the face of worse economic prospects.

Although employment and income are the main draw for refugees to resettle in cities like Toronto, living there doesn’t necessarily result in higher earnings. 

Statistics Canada found that government-assisted refugees in Toronto had the worst outcomes when securing work and making a living, with rural communities offering far better prospects. 

Another factor that might be driving refugees to seek out bigger cities was the presence of “co-ethnic” enclaves which are neighbourhoods where other immigrants from similar backgrounds have settled, Statistics Canada suggested. 

“The potential for better labour market outcomes based on city size may also be underpinned by the presence of co-ethnic communities, which tend to be more established in Canada’s larger cities,” reads the study. 

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not respond to a request for comment from True North. 

The federal government allocated $21 million in 2022 to enhance the Resettlement Assistance Program in provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and New Brunswick.

Nevertheless, the preference for large urban areas persists although refugees placed in smaller communities exhibit higher rates of employment and earnings.

“Those assigned to Toronto had the lowest employment incidence and annual earnings, while stayers in medium-sized and small cities reported better economic outcomes,” wrote analysts. 

Moreover, individuals who transition from larger to smaller cities often experience improved economic outcomes, although this transition is rare. 

The inverse relationship between city size and refugees resettling elswhere, with a greater likelihood of relocation as city size diminishes, poses a challenge for policymakers, noted Statistics Canada.