Global Queer Research Group: Sexual Politics in the Era of Transnationalism, Diasporas and Postcoloniality

Tories move to curb ‘bogus’ refugees

February 18th, 2012 · No Comments

**An Update and Correction**
I presented to the standing committee on citizenship and immigration in May 2010, to speak against provisions in Bill C-11, that would have been particularly harmful to QLGBT ayslum seekers. Some of these provisions were removed in June 2010 before the Bill passed.

Just this week –Feb 16th–Minister Kenney tabled an omnibus bill that brings back many of the most problematic aspects of C-11, and also includes clauses taken from Bill C-4 that broadens the use of detention. It allows detention for a full year without review.

There has been no consultation or community review of the tabled legislation–and it appears that the Conservatives are pushing to pass it before June. Hope you and others will decide to write or speak to your MPs. has suggestions and talking points. Important to voice our objections to this regressive piece of legislation



This from Sharalyn Jordan of SFU/Rainbow Refugee Committee; who was present at the parliament earlier this week to speak against the proposed changes as they would have detrimental effects on already vulnerable queer refugee seekers.

For more information and action plans, please contact Sharalyn at
Tories move to curb ‘bogus’ refugees
New bill uses majority to roll back earlier concessions
By Louise Elliott, CBC News
Last Updated: Feb 15, 2012 11:52 PM ET
The Conservative government is poised to change the refugee system yet again in an attempt to deter what it considers “bogus” claimants, CBC News has learned.

The government will table a bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday that is expected to toughen the measures taken in the Balanced Refugee Reform Act. That bill — which passed a minority Parliament in June, 2010, after several concessions were made to the opposition — has yet to be implemented. It was due to be up and running by June 29 of this year.

Sources familiar with the bill say it will reverse some fundamental compromises the government made to get it approved by opposition MPs.

Most notably, it will eliminate a key appeal route for claimants from countries that are on a special “designated country of origin” or “safe country” list. It will also eliminate a committee of experts who were to advise the minister on which countries to place on that list. The list, which isn’t yet up and running, is designed to fast-track claimants from countries the government determines is “safe” and therefore not likely to generate legitimate claims.

Under the new bill:

  • The immigration minister would have power to place countries on the safe country list without benefit of a committee that was to include human-rights experts. The committee would be scrapped.
  • Claimants from countries on the safe country list whose claims are rejected would no longer be allowed to appeal the decision to a new appeals body within the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).
  • Claimants from countries on the safe country list would have to wait a full year to apply for humanitarian and compassionate consideration to become permanent residents, which would take into account issues of personal hardship. In the interim, they could be deported.
  • Claimants from countries on the safe country list would be allowed to ask for a judicial review by the Federal Court, but there will be no stay of their deportation pending a decision. That means failed applicants could be deported before the court rules on their case.

A source familiar with the new bill said the government is grappling with a spike in claims from the ethnic Roma communities of eastern Europe. In particular, there was a doubling of claims from Hungary in 2011 to 4,900, up from 2,400 the year before. The current acceptance rate for claims from Hungary is about two per cent.

The Czech Republic is currently under visa restrictions due to a similar influx of Roma claimants. And Poland and Romania are seeing an outflow of Roma refugee claimants as well.

“We have to keep bogus claimants out,” the source said. “How is it the U.S. had 47 claims in 2009 and 2010 while Canada had 4,700 claims in the same time period?”

EU claims rising

During question period on Tuesday, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney suggested he’s ready to do battle with a massive influx of claims from EU countries.

“It is peculiar that Canada is receiving more asylum claims from the democratic rights-respecting European Union than from Africa or Asia,” he said.

“Nearly all of these claims are determined to be unfounded. Over 95 per cent of these claimants abandon or withdraw their own claims. The evidence before us suggests most of these claimants are taking maximum advantage of generous Canadian social benefits, provincial welfare, federal cash transfers, [and] there’s been a criminal prosecution into human trafficking and welfare fraud in Hamilton [Ont.]. We must take action to protect the integrity of Canada’s immigration system.”

Refugee experts warn that the new bill could put lives at stake by giving the minister too much authority over the safe country list while eliminating an appeal process.

“Safe country is a very dangerous concept in the world of law,” Peter Showler, a former chair of the IRB and an expert in refugee law at the University of Ottawa, told CBC News. “From virtually every country there are some people who are safe and some people who are not. If the minister removes [the advisory committee] then the danger is of arbitrary placement on the list and particularly for political reasons.”

Safe country lists can work, but only when there are adequate checks and balances, including the right to an appeal and adequate time to prepare a claim., Showler said.

“To remove that appeal for any category of person is highly objectionable. You’re taking the risk that they’re going to be sent back to persecution,” he said.

‘Nearly all of these claims are determined to be unfounded. Over 95 per cent of these claimants abandon or withdraw their own claims.’— Immigration and Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney

The new bill may also seek to change the amount of time claimants from safe countries have to prepare their claim. Under the bill passed in 2010, they would get 60 days to complete their claims (claimants not on the designated list get 90 days). Sources familiar with the new bill suggest that time frame may be narrowed even further, possibly through regulation, once the bill is passed.

The new bill will allow Canada to get out of sticky diplomatic situations that have led to visas being imposed on trading partners. In 2009 Prime Minister Stephen Harper travelled to Mexico to announce visa restrictions would be imposed while his government worked to “fix” a flawed refugee system at home.

Three years later the visa restriction is still in place, creating an irritant in the relationship between the two countries. Similarly, sources close to the bill say the government is reluctant to impose visa restrictions on Hungary while EU trade talks evolve, and is hankering to lift the visa restriction on the Czech Republic for the same reason.

Mexican claimants

The idea of placing Mexico on the list bothers most refugee experts including Showler, who notes claimants from the country have a 10 per cent acceptance rate in Canada, “and that’s after the minister has put considerable pressure on the board not to accept claims from Mexico.”

“If anything we’ve seen in the past year push-back from not only refugee board members but also from the Federal Court acknowledging that Mexico is a dangerous place and that there are many legitimate claimants from that country,” Showler said. “It would be a travesty if Mexico were put on the designated list.”

The bill to be tabled Thursday is also expected to scrap a plan to introduce a new intake interview for all refugee applicants, to be held by an IRB official 15 days after the applicant initiates a claim.

A source familiar with the bill says the government is scrapping that idea because it was very unpopular. Instead, the system will continue to require a personal information form be filled out as a point of first contact with the refugee system.

Showler says the intake interview being scrapped because it is too expensive in a time of budgetary restraint. Still, he said, it’s the right decision because claimants are usually uninformed and vulnerable when they arrive and need time and the support of a lawyer to prepare their legal case.

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