Sunday, March 28, 2010

Feds to introduce refugee-system reforms this week

CTV.ca News Staff

Date: Sun. Mar. 28 2010 12:48 PM ET

Ottawa will introduce new legislation this week to fix what it calls a broken refugee system that delays legitimate asylum claims while allowing bogus claimants to remain in Canada through a years-long appeals process.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said he will introduce a bill Tuesday that will offer faster protection for real refugees while scuttling the claims of those who use the refugee system to fast-track their way into Canada.

While he declined to reveal many specifics about the legislation, Kenney told CTV's Question Period that it will "streamline" the appeals process through which claimants who have been turned down by the Refugee Board endeavour to have their claims approved.

"It's a balanced reform," Kenney said in an interview from Montreal. "It will speed up the system and give faster protection to real refugees while sending the message to the bogus claimants that you're not going to be able to use the system in Canada anymore. We're going to remove you a whole lot more quickly."

According to Kenney, his ministry faces a backlog of 60,000 asylum claims, which has led to a 19-month waiting period for a hearing or a decision.

"That's terrible for real victims of persecution," Kenney said.

The minister said the slow-moving legal immigration system attracts false claimants who use the asylum system to "jump the queue" and gain entry to Canada "through the back door."

According to Kenney, 58 per cent of asylum claimants are found not to need protection and are either rejected by the Refugee Board, or withdraw their claims.

He pointed specifically to one "European democracy" that has become the number one source country for asylum claims, saying that 97 per cent of those who say they need protection withdraw or abandon their claims. Only three of 2,500 cases from that country that went before the Refugee Board last year were accepted, he said.

While Kenney did not name the country in question in Sunday's interview, earlier this month he said Hungary has become Canada's number one source country for refugee claims, at several hundred per month.

"This is telling me that Canada, with the highest number of asylum claims in the developed world, has become a destination of choice for false refugee claimants and it's simply burdening the system," Kenney said. "Each one of those claims can cost us as much as $50,000 and four-and-a-half years before they even exhaust all of the appeals under the current, totally dysfunctional system."

Kenney also said Sunday he will be introducing legislation later this spring to crack down on dishonest immigration consultants.

"We intend to come forward with legislative changes to crack down on the bogus, unscrupulous consultants and advisers who counsel people to commit fraud, who often take money and provide no services, and many of whom counsel immigrants looking for status in Canada to make false refugee claims."