Kenney proposes a two-stream approach to refugee reform

Posted by admin on Mar 29th, 2010

Globe and Mail, Mar. 29, 2010

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is taking a two-pronged approach to refugee reform: He wants to open the door to more people who are languishing in UN-sponsored refugee camps while quickly ushering out those who arrive here to make bogus claims for asylum. But his plan to hike the number of refugees accepted annually into this country was criticized by refugee advocacy groups yesterday as an attempt to download costs of resettlement onto the backs of church and community groups.

Of the 2,500 additional refugees that would be allowed into Canada each year under the new plan, Mr. Kenney says 2,000 must be sponsored by private organizations who would provide financial and social support. The government would sponsor the rest.

That’s a significant change from the current regime in which the costs of resettling 70 per cent of about 12,000 successful refugee claimants is paid by the government.

Further changes to be announced today will divide claimants into two streams, speeding the rejection of those who come from countries that are deemed to be safe.

It is the wrong approach, said Janet Dench, the executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “Refugee determination is an individual determination and you have to do it on the basis of an individual case taking all of the information into account.”

Under the new rules proposed by Mr. Kenney, the 2,500 additional refugees would be selected from refugee camps and urban slums by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

“The announcement will create a better balance or parity between … [public and private sponsorship] which I think is good because we are seeing very positive results out of the privately sponsored refugee program,” Mr. Kenney told reporters after unveiling the first part of his proposed reforms at the offices of a refugees assistance centre in downtown Ottawa.

“The tremendous success of the [1979 and 1980 integration of] Vietnamese boat people was largely a result of the success of local communities providing integrated support. People come and they are landed in a community, in a church community or a local community.”

But the government has allotted just $9-million to help 500 more refugees come to Canada while asking community and religious groups to pay for four times that many people.

“It seems extremely disrespectful to the private sponsors,” said Ms. Dench. “I have been calling around to find out did the private sponsors agree to this? Are they willing to come up with the time and the effort and the money for 2,000 extra a year and I haven’t found anybody who has said yes.”

Private organizations that pay for the resettlement of refugees are often responding to particular international situations, she said. “They don’t necessarily line up for the ones that the UNHCR referred.”

Jeannethe Lara who works on refugee issues for the Anglican Church in Canada said private sponsors, including her own organization, do important work by bringing in both UN-sponsored refugees and refugees caught in other types of situations.

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