Canada’s failed asylum seekers will be shown the door

Posted by admin on Mar 30th, 2010

Tue Mar 30 2010, Toronto Star

OTTAWA—The Conservative government is proposing a major overhaul to Canada’s refugee system with a special focus on ridding the country quickly of asylum seekers making unfounded claims. “These balanced reforms will deliver fast and fairer decision on asylum claims. That means fast protection for bona fide refugees and faster removal of false asylum claimants,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said, adding the changes are also in response to overwhelming public support for reforming the asylum system. Critics immediately labeled as “unfair” a controversial provision in legislation introduced Tuesday that would eliminate an appeal step for asylum seekers from so-called safe countries that Canada considers democratic nations.

Kenney told a press conference that the current process is “broken” because some asylum seekers have been “abusing” the system to jump the queue of immigrants waiting to get into Canada.

The new system if given final approval by Parliament will be piloted in the Greater Toronto Area.

It currently takes an average of 19 months for claims to be heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and the government proposes to reduce that to 60 days. The goal is to get unfounded claimants out of the country in about 18 months instead of tying up the system for years.

“This legislation addresses the fact that our generosity is too often abused by false asylum claimants who come here and do not need our protection,” Kenney said.

“It undermines public confidence in and support for our refugee system,” the minister said, noting 58 per cent of claims processed by the IRB are subsequently rejected by the board, abandoned or withdrawn by the claimant.

Kenney cited a Toronto Star investigation that concluded false refugee claims were common place and “bog down a bureaucracy set up to provide haven to those facing persecution and abuse and that in turns lengthens the wait for immigrants who don’t jump the queue.”

What’s controversial is the way Kenney proposes to reduce the lags throughout the process — by sorting out people according to their country of origin.

The immigration minister will decide on a list of safe countries of origin. Since officials anticipate that almost all of the claimants from those countries will eventually be rejected, those claimants will go through an expedited process. That way, Canada can cut short the time such people spend in Canada exploiting the system, collecting welfare and using free health-care services.

A prime goal of the government bill is to remove failed claimants within one year after their final appeal, rather than having their cases drag on for as long as four and a half years as they do currently. At the moment there are about 15,000 asylum seekers to be removed from Canada with another 38,000 unaccounted for.

The proposed legislation would streamline the front end of the refugee claim process and turn over the preliminary reviews to senior public servants.

The proposed changes include funding of $540 million over five years, including $129 million to address the backlog of 60,000 cases and about $90 million for resettlement of refugees.

Critics accused the Conservative of using the 60,000-case backlog and frivolous claims as cover to blow the refugee claimant system up to fit the government’s right-wing agenda.

“I don’t know that the system is broken so badly that it requires this kind of overhaul,” said Amnesty International’s Gloria Natziger, who attacked the government proposal to deny appeals to asylum seekers from the so-called safe countries, which have yet to be named.

These claimants would not be allowed to appeal their cases to the refugee appeal board but rather would have to request a leave to appeal to federal court, which historically reviews very few of these cases.

NDP immigration critic MP Olivia Chow said the proposed immigration changes are “fast but … certainly not fair.”

“Every person who faces persecution should be treated equally, no matter which country they came from,” said Chow, noting that people from so-called democratic countries can be persecuted, such as gay people in Ghana.

Wanda Yamamoto, president of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said the introduction of the ‘safe countries’ notion is a mistake

“The government is proposing a two-tier system, which denies some claimants access to the appeal based on nationality,” she said.

Comments are closed.