Canada Border Services Agency to Use Electronic Bracelets in Place of Detention

A satellite used in the Global Positioning System. Electronic bracelets with GPS tracking will be used by the federal government in place of long-term detention of high-risk asylum claimants

The federal government will use electronic tracking bracelets in place of detention for asylum claimants and illegal immigrants who pose a high risk of evading deportation orders, according to a recent report by the Globe and Mail.

Ottawa served notice this week that it plans to sign a contract with the U.K. firm Buddi Ltd., used by police forces there to track criminals through electronic bracelet devices that the British media have dubbed “Chav Nav” tags. The technology provides real-time tracking using the same space-based Global Positioning System that drivers rely upon for in-car navigation.

The decision comes a little less than a year after a parliamentary committee on public safety and national security presented its findings on the effectiveness, cost efficiency, and feasibility of using electronic supervision in the correctional and immigration setting.

That report concluded that electronic supervision would likely improve the federal government’s enforcement of removal orders for failed asylum claimants, which is something it has struggled with in recent years.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board see electronic tracking as potentially a more humane alternative to holding high-risk asylum claimants in long-term detention.

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More Countries Listed As ‘Safe’ Designated Countries of Origin

The addition of Chile to the Canadian government’s list of designated countries of origin was announced during a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chilean president Sebastian Pinera (Government of Canada)

As part of the effort to combat bogus asylum claims, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced on Thursday that two more countries have been designated as ‘safe’ countries from which asylum claims will be given an expedited treatment.

CIC created the list of designated countries of origin (DCOs) in December 2012 to stem the tide of welfare seekers from European countries, primarily Hungarian Roma, that were taking advantage of Canada’s generous asylum claims process to live on the country’s social services for years until finally being deported.

In its report on the phenomenon, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) found that claimants would delay their deportation through a lengthy process of appeals, before finally abandoning their claim or having it rejected for lack of evidence.

The list originally contained 27 countries, that included most EU member states. Eight more countries were added in February, and with the addition of Chile and South Korea on Thursday, the total number of countries has come to 37.

Countries are considered DCOs if they are democracies with strong legal protections of human rights, and if at least 60 percent of asylum claimants from the country had withdrawn/abandoned their claim, or at least 75 percent of claims by claimants from the country were either withdrawn or abandoned by the claimant or rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

Chile’s induction into the DCO list coincided with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s meeting with Chilean president Sebastian Pinera, and the signing of a Canada-Chile trade agreement.

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New Safeguards Drastically Reduce Canadian Asylum Claims from High-Fraud Regions

New rules put into effect by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in December have led to a significant reduction in asylum claims being made in Canada

Canada, which was facing one of the worst bogus refugee claims problems in the world, and seeing government expenditure on welfare for asylum claimants gradually increase as a result, has seen a drastic reduction of asylum claims from problem countries in the aftermath of instituting new laws on how asylum claims are processed.

Changes that came into effect on December 15th 2012 require claims to be processed quickly – within 30 to 45 days for individuals from countries considered democratic and observant of human rights – and prevent claimants from delaying a deportation through years of appeals.

The number of claims from Hungary, the country that led the world in producing Canadian asylum claimants, and from which the vast majority of claims are rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board or abandoned by the claimant before their hearing, declined from 353 in the January 1st to February 19th period of 2012, to 7 in the same period of 2013.

Totally, asylum claims have declined by 70 percent, while claims from countries designated as safe have declined by 86 percent.

The primary reason for the drop in claims is likely that the new rules have eliminated the incentive to file a bogus asylum claim by making it impossible to take advantage of the years of welfare and other free social services it could previously provide.

The new rules are expected to save tax payers $400 million a year.

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Eight More Countries Considered “Safe” By Canada’s Refugee System

A refugee camp in Africa. The Canadian government resettles over 10 percent of the refugees settled annually worldwide (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

As part of an effort to reduce the number of bogus asylum claims made in Canada, the federal government has added eight countries to its list of designated countries of origin, which are those it considers as having strong protection of human rights, and from which genuine refugees are unlikely to originate.

Asylum claimants from the now 35 designated countries of origin will still be able to file a claim with the Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), but they will receive a hearing within an expedited 30-45 day period, instead of the 60 days that individuals from non-designated countries will wait.

Individuals from designated countries of origin will also not have the recently created, quasi-judicial, Refugee Appeals Division (RAD) available to them, although they will still be able to appeal their decision in federal court.

The removal of access to the RAD from those originating from safe countries is intended to alleviate a major problem of those whose claims are rejected delaying their removal from the country through appeals, allowing them to stay in Canada for years, and collect thousands of dollars in social assistance, until they have finally exhausted the appeals process.

The eight countries categorized as designated countries of origin are:

  • Mexico
  • Israel (excluding Gaza and the West Bank)
  • Japan
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Switzerland

The introduction of expedited processing of asylum claims from designated countries puts Canada in the company of a number of other countries who withhold full access to their refugee system from claimants originating from countries deemed ‘safe’, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium and Finland.

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Canadian Immigration Department Creates New Rules To Fight Refugee Fraud

The Immigration and Refugee Board office in Vancouver. New rules in place since December 15th expedite the processing of asylum claims from Designated Countries of Origin (DCOs) and withdraw their access to the Refugee Appeals Division (RAD) (GOOGLE MAPS)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) last week released a list of 27 countries whose nationals will have their asylum claims expedited.

The new rules were created to fight a growing problem of bogus asylum claims by nationals of European member-state countries, particularly Hungary.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has reported thousands of Hungarian Roma arriving in Canada in recent years and in most cases going on welfare for months/years until their refugee hearing.

In almost all cases, the bogus claimants withdrew their refugee claim before the hearing or had it heard and rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) due to lack of evidence of persecution in their country of origin.

Starting December 15th, the following countries have been classified as designated countries of origin (DCOs) and subject to the new expedited processing rules for asylum claimants they produce:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America

The list includes 25 of 27 European member states, as well as the United States and Croatia.

CIC says more countries will be added over the next few months, which could see Romania, another major source of bogus claimants, put on the list. 

The new asylum processing procedures will also see claimants from non-DCO countries have their case heard within 60 days, which is significantly faster than the average 600 days that asylum claimants currently wait.

While claimants from DCO countries will be able to appeal negative IRB decisions at federal court, they will not have access to the newly created Refugee Appeal Division of the IRB, and will not have their removal orders stayed while making an appeal to federal courts, thus closing one of the main means by which bogus claimants extend their stay in Canada.

The criteria used to determine which countries will be designated as ‘safe’ and have the processing of asylum claimants originating from them expedited is at least 60 percent of claimants from the country withdrawing/abandoning their claim, or at least 75 percent of claims by claimants from the country being either withdrawn or abandoned by the claimant, or rejected by the IRB.

For countries from which less than 30 claimants originate each year, a different criterion of existence of an independent judiciary, democratic rights, and the existence of civil society organizations will be used.

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CBC Obtains Federal Police Report on Hungarian Refugee Claimants

A scan of the front page of the CBSA's report, obtained by CBC News

The largest news broadcaster in Canada, CBC News, has obtained a draft of a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) report on Hungarian refugee claimants, a group which has grown significantly since Canada lifted visa requirements for Hungarian nationals in 2008.

The report describes the findings of Project SARA, a CBSA intelligence study of Hungarian refugee claimants, which include high levels of welfare fraud and petty crime in the community, and indications of a sophisticated operation centred in Hungary that is assisting and coordinating the movement of the claimants.

The draft report says most refugee claimants from Hungary are Romani, an ethnic minority in Europe sometimes referred to as gypsies -though this term is considered derogatory by many Roma organizations. It says that in large part, they seek protection based on claims of being persecuted as an ethnic minority in their country.

According to the report, Canada has grounds to reject Hungarian refugee claimants, as Hungary is a European Union member-state, and as such, its nationals are free to move to any other EU state if they face danger in a particular EU country.

The report concludes that while reinstituting visa requirements for Hungarian nationals would reduce the number of claimants from the country, it is not a long-term solution as those seeking to file claims in Canada can do so from other European countries. It proposes instead a faster claims process for refugee claimants from European Union member-states.

The proposal is similar to a power already granted to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration with the passing of Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, in late June which gives the department the discretion to create a list of ‘safe’ countries with democratic governments and reputations for respecting human rights, and process asylum claims by individuals from these countries in 45 days instead of the usual 1,000 days.

The bill also denies claimants from countries on the list a right to appeal their decision, which is often used by asylum seekers to delay their deportation for years.

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Release of Convicted Fraudster Highlights Serious Problems with Canada’s Refugee System

A photo of Gyula Kolompar released by the Coquitlam RCMP in a March 2012 news release seeking help from the public in locating him

According to a CBC report, the Immigration Division (ID) of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) released Gyula Kolompar, a refugee facing deportation, from federal custody on Tuesday, despite his conviction last week on six counts of fraud, 12 counts of fraud over $5000, and one count of mail theft, for his role in a mail theft and bank fraud operation that netted him, his wife, his son, and allegedly his brother, $345,000 in stolen funds.

His wife and son were found guilty last week as well, while his brother is still in custody.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) hearing officer Kevin Boothroyd argued that Kolompar should be held in custody until his admissibility hearing, scheduled for November 7th, as he fled BC for Ontario when the police issued a warrant for his arrest for the fraud operation and is unlikely to show up for next month’s hearing.

Kolompar’s lawyer countered that his client went on public assistance in Ontario, and that this shows that he made no effort to hide from authorities, and that he was not aware of the outstanding warrant for his arrest.

ID member Leeann King agreed with the defense, saying the federal government failed to show that Kolompar is likely to not appear at next month’s hearing. She told Kolompar, “I have no evidence of you being aware of warrants and trying to flee.”

According to evidence presented in the fraud case against Kolompar, the mail theft operation involved 30 Hungarian nationals coming to Canada as refugee claimants, opening bank accounts, giving their bank cards to Kolompar family members, and then returning to Hungary.

Gyula Kolompar, his wife Katalin Kolompar and his son, Gyula Kolompar Jr., then deposited 267 stolen cheques into the 30 accounts over a course of three years, defrauding four banks of approximately $345,000.

Seeking Deportation

The federal government is seeking to deport Kolompar from Canada for his involvement in an organized crime group. He has a long record of criminality in the country, which started soon after his arrival in Canada as a refugee claimant in 2000.

He was accepted as a refugee in 2004, but lost his bid for permanent residence in 2009 due to a 2005 conviction of being in possession of stolen property.

The sophistication and scale of the Kolompar family criminal operation, involving over 30 foreign nationals all entering Canada through the refugee claim system, shows the inadequacies of the refugee program in preventing abuse by disingenuous claimants, quickly filing deportation orders for criminals, and effectively enforcing those orders.

A Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) director testified to the Federal Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in February that 80 percent of the approximately 44,000 outstanding warrants in Canada are for individuals who got into the country through a refugee claim and are evading deportation orders after having their claim rejected.

Correction and Clarification Oct. 12, 2012

An earlier version of the story incorrectly referred to Kevin Boothroyd as a Citizenship and Immigration Canada officer rather than a Canada Border Services Agency hearing officer. It also did not specify that the detention review was conducted by the Immigration Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board, stating only that it was done by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

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Canadian Government Considering Electronic Bracelets For Refugee Claimants

CBSA and RCMP officers in Vancouver, Canada. The Standing Committee on Public Safety was told by a CBSA director that 80 percent of the 44,000 outstanding arrest warrants in Canada are for individuals who have had their refugee claim rejected and are evading deportation (2010 Legal Observers)

The federal government is considering requiring asylum seekers who are in Canada and awaiting a decision by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) on their refugee claim to wear electronic tracking bracelets as a condition of being released from detention.

On Tuesday, parliament was presented with the findings of a study conducted by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to determine the effectiveness, cost efficiency, and feasibility of electronic supervision in the correctional and immigration setting.

The study recommended further consideration of the extra security measure for asylum seekers in part due to testimony it received from a senior official at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

The Director General of the CBSA’s Post-Border Programs, Peter Hill, noted that a staggering 80 percent of the approximately 44,000 outstanding arrest warrants in Canada are for asylum seekers who had their refugee claim rejected and did not appear at their deportation hearing to comply with their removal order.

Hill testified that he believed electronic monitoring would be effective in improving enforcement of removal orders based on positive results the CBSA has had in the limited number of cases where it has used it, and proposed more analysis be done as a preliminary step to broader application of the supervision tool.

The Committee on Public Safety was persuaded by the testimony of Hill and other witnesses and recommended in its report that the CBSA review the cost-effectiveness of electronic monitoring.

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Federal Government Imposing Visa Requirements on St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland

The tropical Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia was one of the countries that lost its visa-exempt status in Canada on September 12th due to what CIC said were high levels of asylum claims and unreliable passports

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced this week that citizens of St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (St. Vincent), Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland will require a visa to travel to Canada, effective 12:01 AM EDT on September 12th.

Individuals who held passports from these countries were previously visa exempt, but due to what CIC says is unreliability in the authenticity of travel documents from these countries, the exemption is being repealed. It was found that citizens from these countries were able to legally change their names and acquire new passports, allowing them to re-enter Canada with new passports after being deported from Canada as security risks.

Visa requirements were also imposed due to the excessively high number of asylum seekers from St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Namibia. The worst offender was Namibia, from which an astonishing 71 percent of those who visited Canada claimed refugee status in 2011, according to CIC.

Commenting on the visa imposition, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said: “These changes are necessary because all the countries concerned have an immigration violation rate of over thirty percent, well above the level we deem acceptable for countries benefiting from a visa exemption.”

CIC said that the Canadian government regularly reviews the visa requirements it places on other countries, and that countries are aware of the conditions they must meet to receive a visa exemption.

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Border Services Report Says Bogus Refugees From Hungary Could Cost Canada $222 Million A Year

Bill C-31 is expected to reduce the costs imposed by bogus refugee claimants

A recent report by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) estimates that each refugee claimant who has their application rejected by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), due either to lack of evidence of persecution in their home country or failing to show up to refugee hearings, costs the Canadian government over $50,000.

The country that produces the highest number of refugee claimants in Canada is Hungary, where 4,442 of the people who applied for refugee status in Canada last year hail from.

Virtually all applicants from Hungary had their refugee claim rejected, but before their cases were processed and they were deported, the cost of the welfare and health care provided to them by the Canadian government could have amounted to over $222 million last year alone according to the report, based on the $50,000 cost per failed claimant estimate.

Not only do provincial governments pay claimants welfare while they are in Canada, but also sometimes for up to seven months after they have left the country due to insufficient information sharing between the CBSA, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and provincial social services authorities, according to the report.

Most of the claimants from Hungary are Romani, a stateless ethnic minority who reside primarily in Europe and who are sometimes referred to as gypsies -though this term is considered derogotary by many Roma organizations.

The Canadian government has said that 40 percent of Hungarian Roma who claim refugee status are from a town called Miskolc, where a large-scale organized effort to send people to Canada to claim refugee status is centered in.

The federal government has taken steps to reduce bogus refugee claims and the costs they impose on federal and provincial governments in Canada with the passing of Bill C-31 in June.

The legislation gave the Department of Citizenship and Immigration the discretion to create a list of ‘safe’ democratic countries with a reputation of respecting human rights, and the authority to reject refugee claims by individuals from those countries and deport the claimants within 45 days, rather than the typical 1,000 days that refugee claims take to process.

This would enable Canada to place Hungary on the safe list and reduce the processing time of refugee claims from that country.

The bill also eliminated free pharmaceutical, vision and dental care for refugee claimants, which CIC argued was fair given those services are not available to Canadian citizens through Medicare.

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