Santé Montréal


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Portrait - Refugee claimants, refugees and migrants with precarious status: Vulnerable newcomers

Portrait montréalais - Demandeurs d’asile, réfugiés et migrants à statut précaire à Montréal : des nouveaux arrivants vulnérables

In Québec, about 80% of refugee claimants and 50% of recent refugees live in Montréal. The regional public health department (DRSP) wanted to find out more about these newcomers, which it considers—along with migrants with precarious status who have no medical insurance—to be especially vulnerable. Today, the DRSP is releasing a profile that brings together available information on the health and living conditions of these populations in Montréal. The aim of this document is to stimulate reflection on actions to take to ensure services for these groups are better adapted.

Here are a few characteristics of those populations  

  • They are younger: only 1% of refugee claimants and 4% of refugees are aged 65 or over, compared with 15% of all Montrealers.
  • More refugee claimants live alone: about 49% vs. 39% for the total population in Montréal.
  • A greater proportion of refugees have children: 37% of refugee households are made up of couples with children vs. 23% of all Montréal households.
  • Their income is lower: 30% of refugees live below the low income cut-offs vs. 18 % of all Montrealers. A study of migrants with precarious status in Montreal revealed that only 30% of them consider they have enough income to meet their own and their family’s needs.  
  • The rate of employment among these groups rises over the years, but do not attain that of the city’s total population. For example, among refugees who obtained permanent residency between 2011 and 2016, the employment rate is 50%. The rate climbs to 67% among individuals who obtained permanent residency before 2006, but remains lower than that of Montréal’s population, at 73%.

In addition, available data shows that almost half of refugees (49%) and migrants with precarious status (45%) perceive their health as fair or poor. Yet, these populations have difficulty accessing health and social services:

  • Although refugee claimants are covered by the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), they may still have difficulty with medical appointments, care trajectories in facilities or interpretation services. 
  • Refugees use fewer health and social services than the rest of the population even though they are covered by the RAMQ. For example, compared with Quebec’s population as a whole, proportionately fewer refugees have a family doctor (56% vs. 77%). 
  • In some cases, migrants with precarious status who have no health coverage cannot access public services for years. For this population, economic barriers are one of the main obstacles to accessing health care and services. 

To reduce social inequalities

To reduce social inequalities observed among these newcomers, Montréal’s regional public health department will work with its partners on the following:

  • Enhance access to health care for migrants with precarious status, especially for children who don’t have access to the RAMQ, pregnant women who have no medical insurance, and people with certain infectious diseases (HIV, hepatitis B or C, etc.).
  • Support actions designed to develop and maintain a social environment that assists refugee claimants, refugees and migrants with precarious status.

Additional information

Refugee claimants are people seeking asylum in Canada who have filed an application to obtain refugee status from the Canadian government. 

Refugees are people Canada recognizes as being at risk of being persecuted if they return to their countries of origin for reasons of race, religion, political opinion, or membership to a particular group. Almost all refugees become permanent residents and then Canadian citizens (89%). 

Migrants with precarious status (MSP) discussed in this document are individuals without private or public medical insurance. MSP make up a heterogeneous group and includes people with no legal migration status, such as visitors or workers whose visas have expired, and some temporary residents, such as visitors waiting to be sponsored by family members or on student visas.


To access the summary and full report:


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Last Update : 25 January 2020