Despite having tightened the conditions for granting asylum to refugees two years back, Canada’s refugee acceptance rate has increased, especially from nations that are considered ‘safe’ for applicants facing persecution.
In 2012 the federal government started ‘fast-tracking’ asylum claims from 42 nations that are considered safe, in order to restrict refugee asylum and to expedite the application process. But these measures have failed to restrict refugee acceptance rates, which have increased from 38% in 2013 to almost 50% in 2014.
The asylum reforms led to a drop in the number of refugee claims made – from 20,223 refugee in 2012 to 10,356 in 2013, though in 2014 the numbers went up to 13,652.
The new rules apply to asylum claims filed after December 2012, though a significant backlog of applications filed prior to that date are still being assessed under the old rules.
Figures show a 61% acceptance rate for applications assessed under the new rules, much higher than the rate for backlog applications which stands at 34%. The acceptance rate for Hungarian refugees, who are mainly Roma minorities, tripled to 35% by 2014. Acceptance rates also went up for Slovakians (from 3.3% to 52%), Mexicans (from 18.8% to 28.8%) and Czechs (from 4.9% to 21%). These countries all belong to Canada’s ‘safe’ list.
“The government should explain how exactly it considers Hungary ‘safe’ while at the same time recognizing that hundreds of Hungarians have well-founded fears of persecution,” says immigration law professor Sean Rehaag.
According to Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees, the high acceptance rates from the safe countries “contravene the government rhetoric that these countries are safe.”
“The new system was set up to be more difficult so claimants have a shorter amount of time to prepare for their case and collect the documents they need,” says Dench.
Historically the refugee acceptance rates have fluctuated in Canada, depending on factors like the profiles of people applying and the conditions in their countries, says Charles Hawkins of the Immigration and Refugee Board. “It is important to recognize that the country composition of our refugee claim intake is somewhat different than it was before the implementation of the current refugee determination system.”
Processing time for refugee claims has been reduced significantly under the new system, down from around 20 months to less than 3 months. The backlog has also been reduced by two-thirds to 9,877 claims.
The government is satisfied with the results the reforms have brought. “By discouraging bogus asylum seekers and sending them home more quickly, we’re able to provide better service and faster protection for people who are actually in need of Canada’s protection,” says a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
“All claimants continue to have a fair and independent hearing by professional, highly trained officers. Canada remains second to none in its generosity and fairness, but we have no tolerance for those who take advantage of this generosity and consume welfare benefits and precious health-care resources meant for the truly vulnerable who are in honest need of our protection.”
Professor Rehaag is relaxed about Canada granting refugee protection to a large number of claimants. “The overall figures challenge the government’s assertion that Canada is having its generosity abused by fraudulent claimants,” he says.
The highest number of refugees in Canada comes from China and Pakistan, followed by Hungary, Colombia, Syria, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Haiti.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is appealing a Federal Court decision that rejects the manner in which the Canadian government’s new Refugee Appeal Division evaluates refugee claims.
In August, a judge ruled that the division of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has been using too narrow a scope to conduct its work.
In a case involving three failed refugee claimants from Kosovo, Judge Michael Phelan ruled the appeal division has been checking only the reasonableness of decisions by the board to declare whether individuals are refugees — the equivalent of a judicial review. Phelan said the division instead should exercise its full powers as an appeal body to reconsider the facts of a case and substitute a new decision if it disagrees with the appeal division.
Now the federal government is opposing that broadening of the appeal division’s role. The Federal Court certified the government’s appeal last month. A spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said in an email Friday the government’s appeal is intended to seek clarification on the court ruling, “specifically on the scope of the appeal function of the Refugee Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.”
Critics say the government’s reaction to the ruling is predictable. It’s the second time the government has launched an appeal on a refugee matter in recent weeks. In October, the government also appealed a ruling by Federal Court Judge Anne Mactavish, who found cuts to refugee health care were “cruel and unusual” treatment, and unconstitutional.
Refugee scholar Sharry Aiken of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said she expects the government to try to take the question of the scope of the refugee appeal process to the Supreme Court if necessary.
The refugee appeal division was promised but never created and when it finally was created in 2012, the government placed several restrictions on who can launch an appeal.
Source: CBC News
From August 1 this year, the cut-off age for immigrant and refugee children will change from 21 to 18 as Canada lets economic motives determine immigration policy. This change in the cut-off age is against one of the official objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act – to reunite families.
This summer the federal government seems to be quietly amending its immigration and refugee protection regulations. Since they have only set aside $62,000 for both implementation and communications, it’s obvious that they want to avoid public attention.
Until August 1, unmarried dependants aged 21 and under could be included in their parents’ immigration or refugee applications. There were exceptions for full-time students over 21 depending financially on their parents. But under the new regulations, the cut-off age is 18 and under and there are no exceptions for students.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, “The amendments to the definition of dependent child respond to government priorities of having an immigration system focused on Canada’s economic and labour force needs.” Their own regulatory impact analysis statement provides evidence that during immigration, the younger a child is, the better is their long-term labour market outcomes. They claim that on an average, Canadian education delivers a higher financial return than foreign education.
Despite the economic evidence, Canada stands to lose out on some highly qualified immigrants who would be unwilling to move to a new country without their 19- or 20-year-old progeny.
However there will still be economic migrants to Canada and the amendments will have a graver impact on those who have little choice in their immigration, particularly refugees. This was noted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holders Association, and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.
Sixty groups and individuals submitted their comments after the changes were first proposed, most of these were in opposition.
The refugees and asylum seekers will now have to consider if safety in Canada is worth leaving a 19-year-old daughter or son behind in a potentially life-threatening situation. It would especially create gendered dangers in countries where women are oppressed. Many of them no longer in their parents’ house, could be forced to marry, face destitution or worse.
With this change, it is estimated that 7,000 young adults will lose the chance to come to Canada next year with their families. About 800 of them will be the children of refugees.
However, the government claims that the regulatory changes better reflect life in Canada, where children are apparently fully independent by age 19. The Canadian reality is however different and most high school graduates are neither ready nor willing to make it entirely on their own without their parents’ financial, social and emotional support. About 42% young adults in their 20s in Canada still live with their parents, and most of them have never faced famine, war, or torture.
Qualifying for a refugee status internationally or in Canada is not easy and those who are accepted have gone through more than most can imagine. It’s unconscionable to add a forced familial separation on them.
Source: The Star
The Federal Court of Canada has ruled the federal government’s cuts to health-care coverage for refugee claimants constitute “cruel and unusual” treatment — especially towards children — and should be struck down.
In a decision released today, Justice Anne Mactavish also says that the changes announced two years ago create two tiers of health coverage between refugees who are from designated countries of origin and those who are not.
Medical benefits for newcomers to Ottawa were reduced in 2012, leaving most immigrants with basic, essential health care but without additional amenities such as vision and dental care.
However, rejected refugee claimants as well as claimants from countries considered safe by the government will be eligible for care only if they pose a threat to public health.
Refugee claimants can still access health care through other programs offered by provinces to create access to essential and emergency care. Government lawyers claim the new rules bring health benefits for newcomers in line with what Canadians receive and keep health care system abusers at bay.
Source: National Post