How to protect genuine refugees

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By Pradip Rodrigues

In a recent interview with a media outlet German Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to comment on an uncomfortable fact- refugee seekers taking vacations in the countries they claimed were ‘dangerous’. After all at the time of making their asylum claims, these travellers swore they faced certain death or torture if they returned to those bad neighborhoods.

“Taking holidays in the country in which you are being persecuted is not on,” declared Chancellor Merkel adding that it could be a reason to re-examine an asylum case.

Re-examine? These asylum claimants should be instantly stripped of any refugee status given that they obviously lied on their application.

But that is not what will happen, the ‘refugee’ will tearfully state that he risked his life to check on an ailing mother or his wife and children whose lives are in imminent danger. Fact, 74 percent of all asylum seekers in Germany are male, the females and children are in the danger zones.

Here in Canada Haitian asylum seekers as well as others from around the world living in the US on expired or soon-be-expired visas are streaming in claiming their lives are in danger if they are deported back to their country of origin. A large number are even claiming they feared for their lives in ‘Trump’s America’ after realizing that many Canadians want to hear and believe that so badly.

In the case of the Haitians, over 50,000 of them were granted protected status in the US following the 2010 earthquake. They knew fully well that once things in Haiti improved it would be time to go back home. Well, that time has come. The UN has concluded that things have improved and the place is safe, so when US Homeland Security going by facts on the ground stated that their protected status would not be renewed next January, they decided to stream to Canada and blame it on Trump’s immigration policies, the irony is that Canada ended the program in July 2016.

Many of these Haitians have come with a large number of children, some call anchor babies who were born in the US which makes them American citizens. While many await the outcome of their asylum claims, many more children will be born on Canadian soil making them our new citizens.

These Haitians say that life in Haiti is hard and dangerous which would be hard on their kids to adjust.

And that is understandable, but does it meet the criteria of being accepted as a refugee? Are they being persecuted or fear being hounded by the authorities?

If a study was done in the western world on the traveling habits of successful refugee claimants, I can wager a bet that a breathtaking number of them will fly to their home country, yes, the same one they fled at the first opportunity.

I know of a Sri Lankan Tamil family who recently went back to visit family. Yes, they probably came in as refugees and were talking about how financially well their family ‘back home’ was doing. They had a wonderful holiday in the same place they fled, the place has since been transformed. The family like so many others in the Tamil diaspora are now making regular trips back because the truth is that things have improved, the country is doing fairly well economically and tourism is growing by leaps and bounds. Not just that, a large number of Tamils are even looking at buying some real estate there! So although there are some western leaders who insist there is instability in Sri Lanka, the memo doesn’t seem to have reached those thousands of Tamils who came to Canada, US and Europe as refugees who are visiting the island nation and the hordes of tourists who are basking on pristine white sandy beaches. They are possibly safer there than on South Beach in Miami.

There are millions of displaced people living in refugee camps around the world, only a negligible fraction of those will be selected to start a new life in countries in Europe and America, the bulk of them will simply be arriving by boat or air with fake or no documentation courtesy human smugglers and will claim refugee status.

You have hundreds of thousands of economic refugees from places like Bangladesh and Pakistan claiming they are being persecuted, oddly enough many of their claims are accepted. I have a suggestion, the people making these evaluations should really be visiting some of these ‘dangerous’ places like Mumbai and Amritsar, where so many former residents have claimed refugee status in the west.

The only way the integrity of the refugee policies in western nations can be maintained is by accepting all refugees on the strict condition that they go back to their countries once things improve. Period. There would be no recourse to the courts once the UN has determined a place to be safe. All this talk about children being used to great neighborhoods and schools and hospitals etc is no reason to linger because there will be need to make space for new refugees from new problem areas. Those wanting to come back to western countries as immigrants should go back to their countries of origin and apply to come back legally.

Indian workers in Gulf countries often take their families with them, especially those with good jobs, but once their contracts expire even after decades they are expected to go, you don’t hear them making a fuss. And believe me people are resilient, they adjust to the rhythm of life in an Indian city or they legally apply to come to Canada. Governments in the west can provide re-settlement funds and other assistance to returning asylum seekers and help them settle in.

If this was the approach taken by western governments, economic refugees would certainly not waste their money, refugee lawyers would be the losers here and western populations would be open to accepting much larger numbers of genuine refugees for however long knowing that they would leave once the danger in their homeland has passed. Those minorities and others facing genuine threats to their safety could and should be granted permanent residency, provided they don’t return to their home countries during the period of danger.

What is really causing large-hearted Canadians to have second thoughts about their generous refugee policy is that they suspect being taken for a ride or worse, for fools.

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