‘Fake’ applications here are hurting those waiting abroad, the Immigration minister says.
By Laura Payton
Published September 9, 2009 View story Email Comments To the Editor
As part of its efforts to reform Canada’s refugee system, the government wants to bring in more refugees designated by the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says.
This, he argues, would be a much more effective and efficient use of taxpayer dollars, benefitting people who are really facing persecution, instead of the thousands of “fake” applicants who apply within Canada each year.
In recent months, Mr. Kenney has spoken extensively about his desire to reform Canada’s refugee system. He has made it clear that he wants to lower the number of applications made within Canada, which has created a backlog of more than 60,000 applications and costs the government millions of dollars in social assistance while claimants await their hearings.
“My concern is more broadly with how easy it is to abuse Canada’s generosity and for non-refugees to immigrate to Canada through the back door of our asylum system using the long processing times and the…various levels of appeal, to string out a fake asylum claim to several years of residency in Canada and sometimes ultimately to gain permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds,” Mr. Kenney said in an interview last week.
The minister says resources aren’t properly spent the way the system works now, and that real refugees in desperate need of assistance are being allowed to languish in limbo as others take advantage of Canada’s system. He wants to see that situation reversed.
“It’s a question of a compassionate allocation of resources away from massive legal costs and social support for de facto immigrants who are gaming our system and abusing our generosity to additional resources for real victims of persecution abroad, most of whom are living in untenable situations in UN refugee camps,” he said.
“It’s ridiculous that Canada provides enormous benefits to fake refugee claimants, who are de facto immigrants, who have the effect of clogging up our asylum system and delaying processing times for real victims of persecution, and of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of public resources on people who are making fraudulent asylum claims, while at the same time there are millions of people stuck in UN refugee camps who can’t return to their home[s].”
Canada is accepting thousands of Bhutanese Hindu, Burmese Karen, Burmese Rohingya and Iraqi refugees, all of whom live in refugee camps, said Mr. Kenney.
The Conservative government, over the years, has made a point of highlighting the admittance of such groups into Canada whenever they have occurred, and Mr. Kenney said he would like to increase such intakes.
“Those who are opposing any kind of positive change or reform, those who are ideologically married to the status quo, don’t have a leg to stand on. They’re saying we should spend billions of dollars and gum up our asylum system [here] rather than using those resources to help resettle bona fide UN convention refugees to Canada. I don’t think they could be more wrong on this issue,” Mr. Kenney said.
But Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council on refugees, says Canada has international human rights obligations to help refugees who apply inside the country.
“We hear very frequently about people casting the refugees ‘over there’ as being the good refugees, while those who are in Canada are portrayed as the bad refugees. We totally reject this division of the world’s refugees,” she said. “They’re not different categories of people, they’re refugees who are in need of our protection.”
She is also skeptical that a government that saves money on its refugee claimant process will spend it on helping refugees living abroad.
“Many people say…if we spend less money in Canada we can do more for refugees overseas. That is a kind of trade-off that is often spoken about but rarely acted upon,” said Ms. Dench.