Refugees Go Home For Holidays

Refugees go home for holidays

By Brian Lilley, Parliamentary Bureau
Last Updated: August 22, 2010 2:26am

OTTAWA – A secret government survey reveals the majority of successful Tamil refugees travel back to Sri Lanka, raising questions about the legitimacy of their refugee status.

To become a refugee, a claimant must prove they are in danger of torture, there is a risk to their life or meet other criteria showing they will face persecution in their home country. Yet this did not stop over 70% of successful Tamil refugee claimants surveyed from returning to Sri Lanka for vacations, business or to sponsor family members.

“I think it's been fairly common knowledge, that after asylum seekers get status they go back,” said James Bissett a former head of Immigration Canada. “Certainly after they get landed immigrant status they go back.”

Bissett said such abuse should not happen but is all too common in a system he says is known to be generous, open and easy to play. “The name of the game is to get into Canada,” said Bissett. “It's Hotel California, everyone checks in but they never leave.”

Another former immigration official told QMI Agency that some refugee claimants might actually be risking life and limb to rush back and visit dying relatives but others simply lied about ever being a refugee.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said he's not surprised to hear about people traveling back to the country they fled. Kurland told QMI he's had refugee clients that have landed in jail after going back to their home country.

He warns there is a difference between people who go back many years after their claim, such as after a change in government and those who go back quickly.

“It's a world of difference,” said Kurland.

He adds that more data is crucial and that if people who recently claimed torture or death if returned to their homeland are the ones doing the travelling, then the refugee status can be revoked.

“They can reopen the hearing and say, 'You had a fear of persecution, where is the persecution?'”

While government officials refused to release the controversial survey they did confirm the top-line figures to QMI Agency. The survey of Sri Lankan nationals was conducted in early August. A total of 50 people were surveyed, 31 of them had successfully obtained refugee status and 22 had returned to Sri Lanka. The CBSA refuses to release further information and will not say if an expanded study will be conducted to examine the full nature of the problem.


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