Saturday, July 18, 2009

Too-Open-Door Policy — Time To Reform The Refugee System

Instead of burdening tourists with useless paperwork, it's time to reform the abuse-prone refugee determination system:
Mr. Kenney can hardly be blamed for wanting to call a halt to what amounts to a cynical game that exploits the hopes of foreign citizens while undermining the chances of those who authentically deserve refugee consideration, and Canada's legitimate desire to help them. He can be criticized for the means in which the visa requirement was imposed: the immigration minister gave just 48 hours notice, claiming a longer lead-in would produce a last-minute rush. But rumours of the move have been around for at least a week, suggesting Ottawa could have given more consideration to the inconvenience caused to legitimate travellers and still achieved its goal.

When the legislation establishing the IRB came into effect, however, the refugee lobby was successful in pressuring the government into not declaring any other countries to be "safe." The objective was to ensure that our door would be left as wide open as possible. As a result, our refugee-determination system has been constantly clogged, and at times overwhelmed, by thousands of claims from people whom no other country would permit to register an asylum application. In 2007, for example, Canada allowed into our system thousands of claimants from democratic countries such as Thailand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Israel, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Guyana and the United States.
The only step in the right direction was a Safe Third Country agreement with the US, signed by Chretien government in 2002. The agreement compels potential refugee claimants in either country to file their claim in a country where they arrive first, rather than coming to the US because it's easier to obtain a visa and then moving to Canada to claim refugee status, because Canada's acceptance rate is higher and so is the social assistance for refugee claimants. (Not to mention that successful claimants are granted permanent residence almost automatically.)

So, instead of slapping visas on Czech citizens, Canada could have signed a similar Safe Third Country Agreement with EU as well as with other democratic nations from which no credible refugee claim is likely. And, of course, Safe Third Country agreements should also exclude citizens of those safe countries from claiming refugee status in Canada. It's just common sense.

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