Immigration changes to prevent 'gaming' of system, Kenney says
Published: Thursday, April 01, 2010
Powered by InformImmigration Minister Jason Kenney responded yesterday to critics of his government's proposed overhaul of Canada's refugee evaluation process, saying the changes were necessary to prevent organized “gaming” of the system by thousands of asylum seekers making bogus claims.
Critics had responded to Tuesday's tabling of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act by saying the proposed $540-million package threatens to smear all asylum seekers as handout-seekers, “railroad” claimants by putting them in front of hearings before they have a chance to prepare, and discriminate against potential refugees from so-called “safe” countries by setting up a separate process for them to navigate.
In a meeting with the National Post's editorial board yesterday, Mr. Kenney defended the most contentious part of the legislation so far, namely the drawing up of a “safe countries of origin” list. He said a two-stream approach — one for refugee claims from democratic countries, another for the rest — is needed to discourage periodic flash floods of thousands of asylum claims from countries that generally offer their citizens robust human rights protection.
“It is simply an additional tool that we'll use on a very limited, discreet basis for countries from which we are receiving a high number of unfounded claims, and which are democratic and generally conform to international human rights conventions,” he said.
The most recent such deluge arrived from Hungary, a member of the European Union. Of more than 2,500 claims from that country last year, only three people were deemed to need Canada's protection.
Often, Mr. Kenney said, organized criminals are sending pawns to Canada to collect welfare cheques. The changes to the system, he said, will “send a signal to the networks that organize these kinds of waves of unfounded claims that they will not be able to game the system in Canada for years.”
Should the Conservative bill pass, an asylum seeker would be interviewed by an immigration official within eight days of arriving in Canada and then have a hearing in front of a public servant by 60 days after that. Failed asylum seekers would be deported in a year instead of an average 4.
Sending phony claimants out of Canada faster should save the provinces billions, Mr. Kenney said. He “just confirmed” yesterday that Ontario continues to pay welfare benefits to asylum seekers after they have had their claims rejected.
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