Send migrants back: lobby group
'They are queue-jumpers,' ex-diplomat says
By Norma Greenaway
September 29, 2010
People who pay smugglers to get them to Canada are not innocent victims, and the federal government should be more aggressive about sending them home, says a leading member of a new immigration lobby group.
Former diplomat James Bissett says the government would send a strong signal to would-be smugglers and their human cargo if it got tough now.
“There is one solution to smuggling. That's to send them back,” Bissett said Tuesday. “If you send one boat back, you won't get another.”
Bissett, a one-time ambassador to the former Yugoslavia and a veteran of the federal immigration department, and other members of the newly formed Centre for Immigration Policy Reform stopped short of saying those arriving in Canada should be deprived a hearing of their refugee claim.
They agreed at a news conference to launch the new group that some legitimate asylum-seekers get to Canada by using the services of human smugglers.
But, they said, many choose the refugee-smuggling route because they cannot meet the requirements for getting into Canada as landed immigrants.
“Often the people who are being smuggled are going out looking for smugglers and [are] willing to pay them money to get here,” Bissett said “They are queue jumpers.”
The Harper government is drafting a promised package of stepped-up antismuggling measures, a step spurred by the arrival of two boats in B.C. in the past year, carrying more than 500 Tamil refugee claimants who each paid $30,000 or more for passage.
One of the ideas under consideration is keeping refugee claimants in detention longer if they arrive by boat in large groups.
Bissett and his group say Canada's refugee and immigration system needs a complete overhaul to better differentiate between false and true refugees and to better tailor the inflow of immigrants to the country's labour needs.
Bissett and Martin Collacott, a former high commissioner to Sri Lanka, said the government should enact a system to hear refugee claims more quickly and to ensure those who fail to make their case get shipped home quickly.
Bissett suggested keeping them in detention during the process might be a good step.
He said one of the reasons Canada was able to send a boatload of failed refugee claimants back to China more than a decade ago was because they were detained until their claims were heard.
The government opted for detention after claimants on an earlier boat from China were released pending their refugee hearing. All of them disappeared.
Olivia Chow, the NDP immigration critic, said she favours speeding up the system but that Bissett's organization is on the wrong track.
“I call them a blame-the-refugee group,” she said.
Collacott said the Canadian refugee system is too generous, and that the recent approval rate of more than 90 per cent of Tamil refugee claims is a magnet for drawing more asylum seekers. By contrast, the approval rates in German, Britain and other countries fall below 10 per cent, he said.
The situation in Sri Lanka for Tamils since the end of the civil war does not warrant that kind of blanket acceptance of refugee claims, he said.