Sat, Feb 18, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Canada proposes tighter controls on refugee influx

AP, TORONTO

Canada’s immigration minister presented new legislation on Thursday that would toughen its refugee system to clamp down on bogus refugee claims, namely those from the EU.

Jason Kenney said Canada receives more refugee claims from safe, democratic countries in the EU than from unstable countries in Africa or Asia, and in recent years more than 95 percent of those claims were withdrawn, abandoned or rejected.

“Our government is very concerned about the recent increase in refugee claims from democratic countries that respect human rights,” he said following a press conference.

Kenney said the claims from 5,800 EU nationals last year accounted for about 23 percent of all refugee claims, an increase of 14 percent from the previous year. Of those claims, he said, 5,000 were from Hungary, mainly Roma migrants, and most others were from Slovakia.

Kenney said by comparison, the US received only about 30 asylum claims from Hungary.

“This is not about Hungary,” Kenney said. “It’s about Canada ... We have people showing up at [the Canadian Border Security Authority office] at the airport when they make their asylum claim asking where they can get their check from, their welfare check.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada has the fairest and most generous refugee system in the world, but that it is unacceptable that Canada receives thousands of claimants from safe, democratic countries.

“Canadians expect us to maintain a just and generous refugee determination system like we have, but also one that is not subject to abuse,” the Conservative leader said on Thursday in parliament.

Canada accepts one out of every 10 UN Convention-designated refugees worldwide — more refugees per capita than any other country. Known for its long-standing humanitarian tradition, Canada has been toughening its rules to weed out false claimants and crack down on human smuggling operations in recent years.

Such measures have included requiring visas from travelers from Mexico and the Czech Republic after Canadian authorities determined that the number of false refugee claims from those two countries was inordinately high. The visa requirement still stands.

The legislation would grant the minister the power to place countries on a “safe list,” scrapping a committee that previously helped in evaluating countries and claims.

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