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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Canadian Government to Implement New Refugee Rules on December 15th

A refugee camp in Chad. New refugee rules will allow for a more comprehensive appeals process for asylum claimants from countries with a history of rights abuses while using an expedited process for claimants from safer countries like EU member states (Mark Knobil)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced on Friday that new rules to clamp down on abuse of Canada’s refugee program will come into force on December 15th.

The new rules are a reaction to an increase in bogus asylum claims that have seen tens of thousands of individuals from comparatively safe countries apply for refugee status in Canada and typically abandon their refugee claim before their hearing with the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), but not before collecting thousands of dollars worth of welfare and free health care while in Canada.

Under the revised asylum claims processing rules, cases will be heard within 60 days, instead of the 600 days it currently takes on average. A Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) will also be created to allow asylum claimants from countries with a history of persecution to appeal negative decisions by the IRB.

To deal with bogus asylum claimants delaying their deportation through a long process of appeals, a separate processing stream will be created for claimants from ‘designated countries of origin’ (DCOs), which are those countries with comparatively strong legal protections of human rights, and these claimants will have fewer and more expedited options to appeal negative decisions by the IRB.

The creation of a ‘safe list’ of countries for expedited processing mirrors the protocol that the governments of most Western countries have in place to reduce the cost of processing bogus refugee claims.

Commenting on the changes, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said, “last year alone, nearly a quarter of all asylum claims in Canada were made by people from democratic European Union nations – that’s more claims than Canada received from Africa or Asia. We’re spending far too much time and taxpayers’ money on bogus claims, and on generous tax-funded health and social benefits for claimants from liberal democracies.”

“Sixty-two percent of all asylum claims – and virtually all asylum claims for the European Union – were either abandoned or withdrawn by the claimants themselves or rejected by the IRB last year,” Kenney added.

“It became abundantly clear that our system needed to be changed. These changes will move our asylum system from one that allows bogus claimants to rely on loopholes and redundant appeals to delay their removals for several years, to a system that hears claims quickly and removes bogus claimants faster. That is in the best interest of Canada, and of legitimate refugees. Canada’s asylum system is one of the most generous in the world and will continue to be under the new and improved system.”

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