Deportation Ban Lifted For 3 African Countries

Deportation ban lifted for 3 African countries
Canada also changes rules for refugee claimants entering through U.S.

Last Updated: Friday, July 24, 2009 | 11:40 AM ET

Canada will lift a ban on deporting illegal immigrants to Burundi, Liberia and Rwanda after an internal review showed “improved conditions” in those countries, the federal government has announced.

“After a thorough review of country conditions and consultations with stakeholders, the government is lifting the suspension of removals to these three countries,” said a statement from Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan issued Thursday evening.

“The removal of individuals who are not lawfully in Canada is key to maintaining the integrity of the immigration program and to ensuring fairness for those who live in this country lawfully.”

Up to 2,100 people in Canada could be affected by the lifting of the deportation ban, or “temporary suspension of removals” (TSR). The change is effective immediately.

Refugee applicants from those countries will not be deported while their claims are being assessed.

The government points out such deportation bans are always temporary and are lifted “when conditions in the country improve and there is no longer a generalized risk.”

The bans have been in place for Burundi and Rwanda since 1994, and against Liberia since 2003.

The government says a United Nations peacekeeping force in Burundi has helped create an “atmosphere of security,” while improved domestic and international transport have boosted living conditions.

In Rwanda, war has ended, rebel groups have no base and those linked to the 1994 genocide are being prosecuted, says Ottawa.

Liberia's government, along with a United Nations mission, is helping maintain that country's security and stability, says the federal government.

However, Amnesty International's annual report for 2009 cites a long list of ongoing abuses in Burundi and Liberia, and to a lesser extent Rwanda.

Can't enter through U.S.

In a related announcement, the government also said it was changing the rules for some refugee claimants who arrive in Canada after first arriving in the United States.

Claimants from countries under a deportation ban (TSR) Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Iraq and Zimbabwe who try to enter Canada from a U.S. land border will be turned back to the U.S., said a news release from Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney, also issued Thursday evening.

Refugee claimants from those countries already in Canada won't be affected by the change.

Under the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement that came into force in 2004, individuals from TSR countries could make refugee claims in Canada even if they first stopped in the United States.

However, effective Thursday, that is no longer true.

Kenney said in a release that the exemption for such individuals was “undermining the integrity of our asylum system.”

“It is important that we don't create a two-tier immigration system: one tier for immigrants who wait patiently in line to come to Canada, frequently for years; and another tier for those who jump the immigration queue and make refugee claims in Canada after they've already had the opportunity to do so in a safe, democratic country,” said Kenney.

Earlier this month, the government announced travellers from the Czech Republic and Mexico need visas to enter Canada in a bid to stem a surge in refugee claims by visitors from those two countries, which are now the top two sources of refugee claimants to Canada.