Mexican, Haitian refugees flowing in
By TOM GODFREY
Last Updated: 13th November 2008, 2:53am
A record number of refugee claimants from Mexico and Haiti are flowing into Canada despite an online effort by the federal government to stem the costly influx, federal figures show.
The Immigration and Refugee Board reported yesterday there are about 9,500 Mexicans and 7,700 Haitians whose cases are waiting to be heard.
It can take more than a year for a case to go through the system — and then there are several levels of appeals for failed cases. During that time, the refugee claimants are eligible for housing, health and social services benefits.
Mexicans do not require a visa to travel here and hundreds are arriving weekly at Pearson International Airport and border crossings and filing claims, the federal statistics show. The Haitians, many who arrive illegally in the U.S., are being sent to Canada by middlemen in Florida, officials said.
Immigration officials had previously posted a warning on a Citizenship and Immigration Canada website advising would-be refugees not to believe promises by immigration organizations or individuals that they would get special treatment in Canada.
“The government of Canada has no special programs to fast-track applications or grant refugee status to Haitians, Mexicans or other nationals,” the alert states.
However, the warning has failed to discourage refugee claimants, who are being directed to Canada by people in the U.S.
The website notice warns claimants they cannot buy refugee status in Canada; they can't “exchange” U.S. documents for a Canadian “permit,” nor should they purchase immigration application forms, since the federal department provides the applications free.
Immigration officials said nearly all claimants arriving in Windsor had their refugee application forms completed and many had the same wording. Several said they paid up to $600 to have the form completed in Florida.