No plans to change refugee target in wake of U.S. travel ban: immigration minister

Calibrated response:

As MPs debate U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban in the House of Commons, Canada has already confirmed it will not hike its refugee intake target in the wake of a contentious immigration and travel crackdown in the U.S., says Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

Under pressure by the NDP, human rights groups and refugee lawyers to bring more asylum-seekers to Canada, the minister said Canada’s plan will not change in response to an executive order by Trump that suspends the U.S. refugee program and bars entry to nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“Our immigration levels plan has an allocation that is historically high for refugees,” Hussen said. “We intend to maintain that plan.”

Canada’s 2017 immigration plan is set to accommodate 40,000 refugees.

Hussen also rejected calls to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, a pact which considers asylum-seekers safe in both Canada and the U.S.

“All the parameters of that agreement are in place and there is no change at this time,” he said.

MPs held an emergency debate Tuesday evening, which concluded around midnight, on the U.S. immigration and travel directives,.

Noting that the U.S. has now agreed to allow in 872 refugees who were already screened and in transit, and were previously denied entry, Hussen said that’s a sign the situation is evolving fast. He added that Canada will closely monitor developments.

“The responsible thing to do is to maintain contact, to continue to engage and make sure we monitor the situation closely to make sure we provide information to Canadians,” he said.

Ottawa U.S. Embassy Trump protest travel ban Jan 30 2017

People gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa Monday afternoon to protest an executive order signed by President Donald Trump banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. (CBC)

Call for ‘special measures’

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan, who requested the emergency debate, held a news conference Tuesday morning urging the government to lift a cap on privately sponsored refugees and to fast-track refugee claims.

The B.C. MP laid out a number of proposed “special measures” ahead of the debate.

“There is no question that this ban promotes hate and intolerance,” she said. “This ban will have a disastrous effect for thousands of innocent travellers and refugees.”

Calling it “absolutely shocking,” Kwan said the Trump travel ban will have a huge negative impact on the economy, as well as cultural and academic development.

…Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel used the debate to launch into an examination of whether Canada was effectively managing its own immigration file.

She questioned whether there was adequate funding to help refugees integrate into Canadian society, and whether it was wise to lift the visa restrictions on Mexicans coming to Canada.

“To respond to the immigration policies of other nations, we must first get our own house in order, and then through those actions, show the world what immigration policy best practice looks like,” Rempel said.

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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