Urgent need for immigration reforms

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Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has moved quickly and effectively to improve Canada’s grossly inept refugee system. However, there remain several other fundamental reforms to Canada’s lax immigration procedures that are urgently required to safeguard national security.

When Kenney took over as immigration minister in October, 2008, close to half of the refugee claimants pouring into Canada were coming from just two countries – Mexico and the Czech Republic. That was plainly ridiculous. The overwhelming majority of these asylum seekers were economic migrants with no valid claim to refugee status.

So why did they come to Canada under the pretence of seeking asylum? The answer is evident: Word got around in Mexico and the Czech Republic that Canada’s screening system is so slow and cumbersome that it takes years – up to 10 years in come cases – from the time a bogus asylum application is made until the culprit is deported.

Meanwhile, asylum seekers are entitled to free legal counsel to process their claims as well as full health and welfare benefits. The estimated average cost of failed asylum claims to Canadian taxpayers is close to $50,000.

In 2008 alone, Quebec received close to 6,000 asylum seekers from Mexico at a cost to Quebecers of $171 million.  According to the independent Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), 90 per cent of these claims were bogus.

That did not sit well with the Quebec government which demanded that Kenney take action to stop this scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money. He responded last June, by imposing visa requirements on all visitors from both Mexico and the Czech Republic with the result that refugee claims from these countries have slowed to a trickle.

Most of Canada’s immigration lawyers protested. They benefited hugely from the old system that allowed more than 10 times the number of asylum seekers per capita into Canada than into the United States.

Some church groups and other non-governmental organizations that assist in the resettlement of refugees in Canada have also decried Kenney’s crackdown on bogus asylum seekers. The leaders of these organizations would do better to concentrate their efforts on helping genuine refugee claimants from oppressive countries like Iran and the war-torn regions of Africa who have suffered terribly and face a real threat of persecution, torture and/or death should they be forced to return to their home country.

Imposing visa requirements on the Czech Republic and Mexico was only a stop-gap measure. Now Kenney has followed up with a comprehensive plan for overhauling the refugee system that aims to give quick protection to genuine asylum seekers while discouraging bogus claimants from relatively safe countries and expediting the removal of migrants who worm their way into Canada under false pretences.

It remains to be seen how effective the new system will be. Of primary concern is the threat of terrorism. The vast majority of the thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers who enter Canada every year from terrorist-producing countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algeria and Morocco are not screened for criminality or security.

In the current issue of C2C – Canada’s Journal of Ideas, James Bissett, former executive director of the Canadian Immigration Service, contends: “All prospective immigrants of the Muslim faith should be interviewed to determine if they hold extremist views and if so, they should be refused entry. The politically correct criticism that such a policy would be racist or religious profiling should be set aside in the interests of public safety.”

Currently, Canada annually takes in more than 250,000 immigrants and asylum seekers. Bissett points out that “the volume of immigration is so high, the practice of individual interviews and counselling of immigrants has been carelessly abandoned. This, in itself, is a confession that immigration in the past 25 years has become primarily a question of numbers at the expense of all else -– including the safety and security of Canadians.”

The conclusion is inescapable: To safeguard Canadians, the Harper government must either vastly increase the resources available to screen immigrants and asylum seekers; or substantially curtail the number of people migrating to Canada from terrorist-producing countries.

Rory Leishman
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