Canada will crack down on what it says is a wave of fake refugee claims from EU nationals and deny the right of appeal to those deemed to be bogus applicants, Canadian Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney said on Friday.
The right-of-center Conservative government says that while it wants Canada to remain one of the world’s top destinations for refugees, it is being swamped by people who pretend they are escaping persecution, but in reality want to sign up for welfare payments.
As of yesterday, Ottawa will deal much more quickly with claims made by people from a list of “safe” countries that includes 25 of the EU’s 27 members, as well as Croatia and the US.
Critics said the new rules meant genuine refugees would not be able to defend themselves before facing deportation.
Kenney said virtually all the claims made by people from the 27 nations in question were either abandoned or withdrawn. Most of the rest were rejected.
“It is a cause for serious concern that the EU, with its democratic tradition of freedom, respect for human rights and independent judiciaries, has been the No. 1 source for asylum claims made in Canada over the past three years,” he told a news conference.
“Failed EU claimants are able to spend years in Canada at great expense to our taxpayers — receiving free healthcare, welfare, education and other social benefits,” he said.
From now on, nationals from the 27 nations filing claims for asylum would have their cases heard within 45 days, rather than about 600 days as at present, he said.
They will not be allowed to appeal to a new refugee appeal division set up by the government.
Canada’s longstanding humanitarian tradition has made it a haven for people fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries.
Amnesty International criticized the government’s plan.
“Denying claimants access to an appeal, based solely on the country from which they have come, is unequal and unfair treatment,” said Gloria Nafziger of Amnesty International Canada. “It may lead to mistakes going uncorrected and refugees being forcibly returned to a risk of persecution ... This provision will have a particularly harsh impact on refugees who are fleeing persecution that is not well documented or acknowledged by officials, including human rights violations due to their gender or sexual orientation.”