Hard to revoke bogus refugee claims
By BRYN WEESE, Parliamentary Bureau
Last Updated: August 22, 2010 5:55pm
OTTAWA—-It's a “self-evident” concern that some Tamil refugees already living in Canada duped the system to get in, says Government House Leader John Baird.
But it's almost impossible to revoke their status, even if the government knows they lied.
According to a secret government survey reported by QMI Agency Sunday, 71% of Tamil refugees in Canada who responded to the survey travelled back to Sri Lanka for vacations, business, or to sponsor a family member, bringing into question the legitimacy of their refugee claim.
“It's self-evident that that's a reasonable concern,” Baird said Sunday. “Immigration is something our government strongly supports. Obviously there is a right way and a wrong way.”
Ten days ago, a boat carrying 492 Tamils landed in British Columbia and all are claiming refugee status.
According to a government official, while the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act does allow revoking refugee status, it's up to the government to prove not just that the claimant lied, but that they knowingly lied and that they weren't in need of protection.
“The power to vacate refugee status exists in legislation, but it's a difficult result to achieve,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, adding it's different for known war criminals or terrorists.
“The system, as it currently exists, doesn't care that you are a liar, only that you're a person in need of protection.”
But rather than fighting it out at the Immigration and Refugee Board, expert immigration lawyer Richard Kurland suggests making refugees ask the feds permission if they want to head home.
There are valid reasons why a bona fide refugee would risk going back, he said, for example, to be with an ailing parent or to find missing children.
“The ones that are problematic are the ones who would fail the social Darwin test. I had a client, a Romanian artist, and he just went back three years later to Romania for a vacation in the summer. Surprise, he's in jail,” Kurland said. “I'm Mr. Enforcement. I have a problem with some young person coming here, claiming status, getting status and then within months is back home.”
One way the government could crack down on unnecessary even nefarious travel by refugees back to their homeland is through an application process that would require the refugees to prove to the government why they need to go back.
If a refugee went back without the Canadian governments permission, “you are presumed to have abandoned your refugee status. Put it right out there,” he said.
Demonstrations in support of the Tamils are scheduled Monday in Ottawa and Kitchener-Waterloo, and Thursday in Montreal. Others were held across the country this past weekend.
In Depth :
Refugees go home for holidays
Refugees go home for 'legitimate' reasons: Lawyer
'Send the Tamils home': poll
UN says Sri Lanka situation improving
Tamils playing us for fools: Levant
We've been duped by the Tamils: editorial