Refugee advocates express shock over changes in asylum law

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For a long time critics have urged the Federal Liberals to plug a loophole that encourages asylum shopping and now it appears to have been done. The Trudeau government is proposing to prevent asylum seekers from making refugee claims in Canada if they have made similar claims in certain other countries, including the United States.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair explained that the measure aims to prevent “asylum-shopping.”

“I can tell you we’ve been working very hard over the past several months to significantly reduce the number of people who are crossing our borders irregularly,” Blair told reporters Tuesday.

“There’s a right way to come to the country to seek asylum and/or to seek to immigrate to this country, and we’re trying to encourage people to use the appropriate channels and to disincentivize people from doing it improperly.”

Refugee advocates and lawyers meanwhile insist that it would compromise human-rights protections to vulnerable refugee claimants.

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The new provision in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act — which was tucked into the 392-page omnibus budget bill tabled Monday evening — introduces a new ground of ineligibility for refugee protection. If an asylum-seeker has previously opened a claim for refugee protection in another country, his or her claim would be ineligible for consideration — as would claims by people who already have made unsuccessful claims here, been deemed inadmissible because of their criminal records, or been granted refugee protection elsewhere.

The provision is based on the belief that Canada’s refugee system is similar enough to that of the U.S. that anyone rejected there is likely to be rejected here as well.

Under Canada’s “Safe Third Country Agreement” with the U.S., would-be refugees who arrive at official border crossings from the United States and try to claim asylum will be turned back to the U.S. But the agreement doesn’t apply to people already on Canadian soil when they make their claims.

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This loophole has been exploited by over 40,000 asylum-seekers who’ve crossed into the country to make asylum claims since early 2017.

Under the new provisions introduced Monday, asylum-seekers deemed ineligible to make claims in Canada will not necessarily be deported to their homelands. They will still undergo pre-removal risk assessments to determine if it is safe to send them back to their countries of origin.

But this takes away their legal right to have their refugee claims heard by an independent tribunal or a court — something that could be subject to a Charter challenge.

A 1985 Supreme Court ruling, known as the Singh decision after the group of Sikh refugee claimants involved in the case, ruled that asylum-seekers have the right to full oral hearings of their refugee claims. The decision is considered one of the most significant in Canadian refugee law and was instrumental in the formation of the Immigration and Refugee Board — the arm’s-length agency that hears refugee claims in Canada.

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With summer coming and with it are expected more so-called asylum seekers, many of them flying in from other parts of the world and walking over into Canada to claim asylum. Others who’ve lived illegally in the US for years after having their asylum claims there rejected find no reason not to come up to Canada and begin that long-drawn out asylum process once again. Unless the frauds are weeded out, genuine asylum seekers will continue to languish in camps across the world with no way of getting to that Canadian border. -CINEWS

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  1. from the Vancouver Sun, 8 April 2019, by L Y Luciuk

    This is a tale of two tales, siphoned from the Immigration and Refugee Board’s vaults. The claimants’ names are changed to protect the innocent (meaning me). And, despite what you may think, these are not particularly unique cases – if Board Members could speak freely they’d admit it.

    Ladies first, so let’s lead with Lori. She sobbed how Roma are so persecuted in eastern Europe that she was forced to bundle up her offspring and escape. Who wouldn’t be moved by a weeping mother protecting her brood?

    Thankfully, some Members are chosen for vigilance. Lori’s English was so perfect she declined an interpreter fluent in the language of her putative patria. She had kept airline boarding passes but not one document from the ‘old country.’ No geographer could locate the town Lori said she grew up in. Inquiring minds finally uncovered she had actually been living for years in western Europe, where all her little ones were born, far from the Hungarian Plains or Wallachia or wherever she claimed she decamped from. Obligingly, the constabulary of her country submitted a helpful document – Lori’s lengthy list of criminal convictions. Bon voyage Lori!

    And there was Raoul. Born in Damascus but outside Syria when civil war erupted in 2011, Raoul renewed his passport in 2017 at a Syrian consulate. Valid travel document in hand, he visited Brazil, Switzerland, and Japan, signatories to the UN Convention on Refugees. Yet he never made any (known) claim about being a refugee in those countries. Because a family member holidayed in the Middle East in 2017 Raoul even delayed his departure for the USA until February 2018. Deplaning in Florida, he moved north leisurely, sightseeing in Orlando and New York. Eventually presenting himself at our border, Raoul claimed a “well founded fear of persecution” should he return to Syria. Asked why he hadn’t declared that upon arriving in a safe third country like America Raoul said the refugee determination process there is “too tedious.”

    I recommended a hearing to allow for questions about Raoul’s perambulations, failure to claim refugee status until early 2018, and why he feared a government that helpfully renewed his passport. Perhaps he had reasonable explanations. Regardless, he would be given the benefit of the doubt. We never return anyone where they might be in harm’s way. Fair enough.

    I never got the chance. The Board booted me before I could. But don’t fret. Members are ‘encouraged’ to expedite Syrian claims, often after only the most cursory review. So Raoul is surely amongst us. Naturally, this prejudice cheers refugee lobbyists and brings tears of joy to claimants’ eyes. As for the IRB line about how every claim must be considered carefully and decided on its own merits – that’s a fib.

    A backlog of some 73,000 claims exists, with wait times hovering around two years. All claimants receive mandated social benefits, costing Canadians aplenty. Meanwhile, the Trudeau government just dropped another $208 million into the Board’s begging bowl, on top of millions doled out last year. Those funds provide the board chairman Richard Wex with a private chauffeur and rented SUV, costing $78,562 a year on top of his $265,300 salary. How this perk helps clear the Board’s backlog I’ll let them explain.

    The strangers wanting to get inside our gates often say the lands they left were “shitholes.” Canada isn’t. So this raconteur won’t mean-mouth anyone who tries. But no reasonable person would conclude Lori or Raoul were really refugees. If I had just kept my mouth shut about that I’d still be working for the Board. Silly me.