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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Health Workers Associations Lobby against Cuts to Refugee Health Care

Cuts to health care for refugees are hoped to reduce the growth in health care expenditures in Canada

Health workers groups held several rallies across Canadian cities yesterday to protest government cuts to health care programs for refugees.

As part of its deficit reduction program, the federal government is cutting medical services provided at no cost to refugees through the Interim Federal Health Program, limiting free services to emergency health care and treatment of chronic conditions that pose a public health threat, like tuberculosis. The government expects the move will save it $100 million over five years.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has also indicated that the move was motivated by complaints that refugees receive free dental and eye care from the federal government that Canadian citizens do not.

“Canadians have been telling us they don’t think that smuggled migrants and bogus asylum claimants should be getting better health-care benefits than Canadian seniors and taxpayers. They won’t be getting extras that Canadians don’t get, like dental, eye care, and discretionary pharmaceuticals,” Kenney said in April.

Health workers associations, including the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nursing Association and the Canadian Pharmacists Association, whose members stand to lose tens of millions of dollars in health care work due to the cuts, wrote an open letter to the federal government in May criticizing the cuts.

In the letter they argued that the cuts would shift the cost of treating refugees to other groups like provincial governments, result in complications and higher costs in the future due to refugees not getting early treatment for medical problems, increase the load on emergency departments, and lead to an increase in public health threats from contagious diseases like tuberculosis.

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Refugee Law, Bill C-31, Set to Pass Today

Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, is set to be passed by the Conservative majority in the Commons today

Bill C-31, a proposed set of laws to reform Canada’s refugee system, is expected to pass the House of Commons today.

The bill would give 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.

The new law would also deny claimants from safe countries the right to appeal the refugee board’s decision, which would prevent the situation of claimants staying in Canada for years through a lengthy process of appeals.

Bill C-31 is largely a response to a flood of Roma asylum seekers from Hungary this year that has outnumbered claimants from any other country.

In an email explaining the need for the new law, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s press secretary, Alexis Pavlich, said that “[v]irtually all asylum claims from European Union citizens in 2011 were abandoned or withdrawn by the claimant or rejected by the independent Board, with Canadian taxpayers left to foot the bill for the expensive health care and welfare benefits these bogus claimants received”.

** June 12th 2012 update **

Bill C-31, as had been expected, passed the House of Commons yesterday, with 159 voting for, and 132 voting against.

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Can. Immigration Minister Proposes New Bill to Toughen Canadian Refugee Admittance

Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has proposed a new bill “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act”, that would toughen rules for asylum seekers coming to Canada.

The new bill would reduce the time taken to assess a standard refugee application from 1000 to 45 days. This would reduce the incidence of immigration authorities being unsuccessful in deporting asylum seekers applying under false pretences, due to the long duration of their time in Canada.

As the National Post writes, the longer the application process for an asylum seeker to Canada is, the less likelihood there is they will be deported:

Reducing the time it takes federal officials to examine claims for asylum is critical. The longer an applicant gets to remain in Canada before a decision is made, the less likely bogus applicants are to be expelled. People who stay here three or more years waiting for their cases to be adjudicated put down roots. They establish homes, have children, develop friendships and forge connections in the community. Then, if their applications are rejected, they plead that it is unfair to expel such a well-established new Canadian.

The new bill would also make biometric readings for foreigners getting Canadian visas mandatory, and introduce more powers to deal with human smuggling.

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