Canada’s immigration reputation: Charting the Tories’ commitment to taking in refugees

The cumulative effect of changes to refugee policy and operations (safe-third country provisions were aimed at reducing those claiming refugee status for economic reasons, not those fleeing for political reasons):

But while the immigration system has been massively streamlined for economic newcomers, Canada has simultaneously made it increasingly difficult for certain refugees. In fact, the massive system overhaul in 2012 is being blamed for the country’s inaction in addressing the Syrian crisis.

A centralized processing facility was established in Winnipeg to expedite applications for privately sponsored refugee claims. However, an internal report made public by an access to information request revealed that staffing shortages caused backlogs to reach “an unprecedented high.”

Authorities also listed 37 countries as being a “designated country of origin,” and enacted a different system for processing refugee claimants from those countries.

Enacted as part of an attempt to cut down on bogus claims, the 37 countries are considered to be free from persecution, and refugees from these “safe” countries are expedited and have no right of appeal.

However, the system also means a refugee from Syria applying to Canada from a temporary home in a “safe” country may see  the chance of acceptance plummet.

“They’ve just added enormously to the paperwork and the hurdles people have to go through,” said Dench.

And the evidence, say critics, is in the numbers. Canada received 35,775 refugees in 2005, just before the Conservative election victory. By 2014, the number was 23,286 — a drop of nearly one third.

Most critical to Syrian refugees was the 2012 provision that G5s — refugees who have been sponsored by five or more Canadians — would need to be officially certified as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

And with tens of thousands of Syrians streaming into Turkey and Jordan, only a lucky few have been able to undergo the interview and screening process needed to obtain such a certification.

….According to UNHCR, Canada does take in relatively high numbers of “resettled” refugees, having accepted 12,173 of them in 2013 — second only to the United States.

However, this number only refers to refugees who are being transferred from a asylum country to a permanent home.

When it comes to total refugees, UNHCR numbers show Canada ranks 41st globally in terms of per-capita refugees — trounced by countries such as Turkey and Jordan whose share of Syrian refugees equal double-digit proportions of their domestic population.

When gross domestic product and geographic size are ranked, Canada places 55th and 93rd, respectively.

Canada’s immigration reputation: Charting the Tories’ commitment to taking in refugees

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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