Bogus OECS refugees in Canada
Do OECS nationals fit the refugee profile in Canada?
November 27, 2007
Immigration officials in Canada are concerned about the number of OECS ( Organization of Eastern Caribbean States)
nationals applying for refugee status in that country.
According to the OECS High Commission in Canada, since 2000, St Vincent and the Grenadines has recorded the highest number of claims, followed by Grenada and St Lucia.
The High Commission said claimants from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis are less alarming.
Canada accepts thousands of refugees and other displaced persons each year, and is concerned that the increasing claims from OECS nationals could disrupt the processing of genuine claims.
Darius Pope is the secretary for political and consumer affairs at the OECS High Commission in Canada.
He told BBC Caribbean that OECS nationals are not conventional refugees and therefore are not eligible to apply for refugee status.
According to Mr Pope, the claimants are generally women between 20 and 40 years of age, who go to Canada during the summer.
“After six months to a year, somebody usually advise them that if they want to remain in the country, this is how they could do it, apply for refugee status,” he said.
He noted that once an application is being considered, in most cases, people are granted permission to work, and are given benefits.
“So it's really an abuse of the generosity of the Canadian system,” he said.
Mr Pope said the OECS High Commission has been appealing to nationals to desist from adopting improper migration avenues, and seek advice on the proper procedures from their respective countries.