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Canada takes more refugees despite tighter asylum restrictions

12 April 20150 comments

Canada takes more refugees despite tighter asylum restrictions3Canada is accepting increasing numbers of refugees despite its government imposing tougher conditions on asylum claims.

Two years after the Ottawa government tightened up its asylum process, acceptance rates have continued to grow for refugees.

According to new statistics almost half of the 19,960 claims processed in 2014 were granted, compared to just 38 per cent in 2013, despite measures introduced in 2012 to put a brake on the  fast-tracking of claims from the 42 countries deemed “safe” by Canadian immigration authorities.

Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board has been running two systems side by side, processing the “legacy claims” filed prior to December 2012 under the old rules by government-appointed adjudicators and post-2012 claims adjudicated by civil servants under the new regulations.

Observers and activists say, in an interesting twist, that the acceptance rate for new claims is significantly higher than for the backlog claims: 61 per cent versus 34 per cent.

“The high acceptance rates of claims from the safe countries contravene the government rhetoric that these countries are safe,” said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

“The new system was set up to be more difficult so claimants have a shorter amount of time to prepare for their case and collect the documents they need,” Dench said. “Their high acceptance rates are noteworthy.”

A government spokesperson said it was pleased with the results of our reforms so far.

Senior government officials have said that by discouraging false asylum seekers and sending them home more quickly, the system is able to provide a better service and faster protection for people who are actually in need of Canada’s protection.

“All claimants continue to have a fair and independent hearing by professional, highly trained officers. Canada remains second to none in its generosity and fairness, but we have no tolerance for those who take advantage of this generosity and consume welfare benefits and precious health-care resources meant for the truly vulnerable who are in honest need of our protection,” said a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

In 2014, 35 per cent of Hungarian refugee claims, primarily made by Roma minorities, were accepted, three times the rate in 2012 before changes were introduced to the asylum system.

The acceptance rate for Mexican refugees rose from 18.8 per cent to 28.8 per cent; for Czech Republic refugees, from 4.9 per cent to 21 per cent; and for Slovakian refugees, from 3.3 per cent to 52 per cent. All these four countries are on Canada’s list of safe countries.

“The overall acceptance rate has historically fluctuated, and depends on many different factors, including the profile of the persons making claims and country conditions abroad,” said Immigration and Refugee Board spokesperson Charles Hawkins.

“It is important to recognise that the country composition of our refugee claim intake is somewhat different than it was before the implementation of the current refugee determination system.”

Canada received 20,223 refugee claims in 2012 but the number dropped to 10,356 in 2013 after the asylum reforms. The number of claims climbed last year to 13,652.

The main refugee source countries have remained steady, led by China and Pakistan, with Hungary, Colombia, Syria, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Haiti next; their overall acceptance rate was at 67 per cent in 2014.

Canada’s Conservative government introduced the changes to the refugee system in 2012 to crack down on false refugee claims from democratic countries and reduce the then growing backlogs by expediting the process.

Processing of new asylum claims is down to three months from more than 20 months under the old system, with the backlog reduced by two-thirds to 9,877 claims — one-fifth of them in the system for more than three years — from the peak of 30,750 in 2012.

Helen Matovu-Reed
AMES Staff Writer