Canadian newcomers resent illegal immigrant queue-jumpers

Not particularly surprising. Mirrors what I hear anecdotally:

Those who legally enter Canada from other countries have a disdain for illegal immigrants who jump the queue, according to research by the country’s immigration department.

According to the government administration news website Blacklock’s Reporter, a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs stated there’s an “underlying sense of unfairness when compared to experiences of other immigrants.”

“Some felt this situation was unfair, that these individuals are jumping what they view as an immigration queue,” the survey noted.

An official estimate pegs the federal government has lost $1.4 billion in three years thanks to illegal immigration.

Between January 1, 2017 and October 1, 2019, the RCMP has picked up 52,097 people entering the country illegally, Blacklock’s Reporter reported. Those individuals mainly composed of Haitians and Nigerians.

Hosting the illegal immigrants comes with a cost — which includes food, shelter, transportation and schooling. According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, about $1.1 billion in direct federal costs were spent on hosting, with an additional $371.5 million paid to authorities in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba in cost compensations.

The Ipsos survey, entitled 2018-19 Annual Tracking Study, got feedback from landed immigrants who participated in focus groups. The groups called the number of asylum seekers “a significant number” with some Chinese participants noting the number is “disproportionately higher than Canada’s population can absorb.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada paid Ipsos $249,823 to conduct the survey.

Ipsos interviewed 4,004 people in 14 focus groups in Toronto, Mississauga and North York, Ont., Winnipeg, Vancouver and Moncton. Participants were from Chinese, Filipino, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and African descent.

One of the participants reportedly told Ipsos researchers that there’s an apparent “loophole in the system” that allows illegal immigrants to “cross (the border) and just put in their papers.”

“They can lie to the Canadian government,’ another told researchers, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.

Others in the focus groups told researchers they worked really hard to get here and there was no support and no help”, or that they are angered that “everybody is coming in.”

One citizen survey noted: “Your English has to be good, you do all these tests, your health has to be good, then you land in Canada and find people here who don’t speak English and you wonder, are there double standards?”

Those surveys felt the federal government was doing a poor job at regulating illegal immigration and felt the United States should take some responsibility to prevent irregular crossings in order for Canada to “effectively screen asylum seekers.”

Blacklock’s Reporter noted officials previously told the Senate national finance committee that asylum seekers spend an average of two years in Canada waiting to hear if they will be deported.

Associate deputy immigration minister Michael MacDonald said the processing time for illegal immigrants has gone up to about 24 months.

In testimony to the Commons immigration committee in March 2018, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen told MPs he considered asylum seekers as illegal immigrants.

“I’m happy to use ‘illegal’,” he said. “I have used the word ‘illegal’ and I have used the word ‘irregular’ and I think both are accurate. I have no qualms in using the term.”

Source: Canadian newcomers resent illegal immigrant queue-jumpers

France’s 20 measures to ‘take back control’ on immigration

One of the better summaries. Too dirigiste IMO in picking sectors with rigid quotas rather than the greater flexibility of a points system that values both specific skills shortages and general human capital and adaptability:

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe presented the “immigration plan” to the French parliament on Wednesday, where they re expected to spark much debate.

“We want to take back control of our migration policy,” Philippe said at a press conference, unveiling a series of measures which he said aimed to strengthen France’s “sovereignty”.

It comes after President Emmanuel Macron had signalled a tougher line on immigration in the second half of his mandate, arguing the government must stop voters drifting to the far-right.

“France cannot host everyone if it wants to host people well,” he said. France received a record 122,743 asylum requests last year, up 22 percent from the year before.

Among the measures Philippe announced was a toughening up of the rules around how asylum seekers and migrants can access healthcare in France.

Asylum seekers in France can access vital healthcare via France’s Aide medicale d’Etat(AME). According to AFP some 318,000 benefit from the system each year.

But Macron himself has said he wants to end cases where foreigners arrive in France on a three month tourist visa but stay in the country and can access healthcare via AME.

The government also intends to toughen checks on those migrants who claim benefits, with suggestions that some asylum seekers have been able to claim two types on state benefits.

The government will also impose a three month “waiting period” (delai de carence) before asylum seekers can access the basic PUMa (protection universelle maladie) health cover, which is for accessible to anyone who resides in France.

Currently asylum seekers can apply to access the PUMa system as soon as they have lodged their application.

The French PM also announced that the squalid sprawling migrant camps on the northern edge of Paris would be cleared out “before the end of the year.”

He also reiterated a plan to double the number of foreign students in France to 500,000 by 2027.

Quotas for industries in need of migrant workers

But the measures drawn up by the government don’t just revolve around making France a harder place to be for asylum-seekers.

The government wants certain sectors, which are most in need of workers, to be able to recruit migrant workers. The PM has already said that the idea of quotas for economic migrants in certain industries should no longer be taboo.

Philippe confirmed that parliament would in future set annual sectoral “goals or quotas” on skilled migration from non-EU countries, similar to the systems in place in Canada and Australia.

The quotas will be based on a list of professions in which employers would be exempted from having to prove that the job cannot be filled by a French person.

But a government statement detailing the reforms made clear that the new caps on economic migration, which accounted for only 33,000 of the 255,956 residence permits awarded in 2018, “will not be restrictive”.

“The idea is to have quantified targets, or quotas,” the Labour Minister Muriel Pénicaud told BFMTV on Tuesday morning.

“This is about France hiring based on its needs. It’s a new approach, similar to what is done in Canada or Australia,” Penicaud told BFM television.

The list of sectors in which companies will be able to recruit migrant workers, will be updated each year in order to keep pace with the ever-changing needs of employers in different regions of France.

Currently employers have to justify why a French citizen cannot be hired in a complex administrative process, which resulted in around 33,000 economic migrants being granted visas last year.

Construction, hotels and restaurants, and some retailing sectors have long complained of a shortage of people willing to take what is often low-paying work.

Information technology and engineering industries, by contrast, say France does not produce enough qualified candidates.

Penicaud did not say how many foreign workers would be granted visas, nor if an applicant’s nationality would be taken into account.

France also intends to put more resources into reducing the time it takes for asylum applications to be processed.

The government passed a law in 2018 aiming to being the average time down from one year to six months, but according to Le Monde newspaper it has failed to have any impact.

The French government also intends to push for greater European cooperation to secure the EU’s borders.

Macron has noted France had seen a sharp increase in the numbers of people asking for asylum since the 2017 presidential election and said much tighter  European cooperation was needed.

“There is not enough cooperation in Europe and we need to look at this migratory phenomenon and take decisions,” he said.

The French president, whose first term expires in 2022, is keenly aware that his biggest political rival remains Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Rally party which has built its popularity on a strong anti-immigration stance.

“In order to be able to welcome everyone properly, we should not be too attractive a country,” said Macron.

Family reunification policies – where someone can gain the right to live and work in France on the basis of a spouse or member of their family being here – will not be touched, Philippe added.

Source: France’s 20 measures to ‘take back control’ on immigration

Asylum seekers turned away by Canada at the border will get the chance to explain why they feel U.S. is unsafe for refugees

A case to watch given its implications for both asylum seekers and the government:

She knocked on Canada’s door and begged for protection. Instead, she was turned away, handcuffed and jailed — and no one even cared to ask her why she fled her native Burundi.

Then, in a cold cell at Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York, she was handed a flimsy prison jumpsuit and put in solitary confinement while waiting for the results of a mandatory TB test. Behind two panes of glass, she ate, slept and used the toilet in plain sight of the guards and anyone walking by. She was held for 51 days.

More than four years after the “horrific” detention experience she said still haunts her, this asylum seeker and others like her who were turned away by Canada at the Canada-U.S. border will finally have their day in court to explain why they feel the United States is not a safe country for refugees.

Starting Monday in Toronto, the Federal Court of Canada will hear a constitutional challenge to the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, under which both countries consider themselves a safe haven for refugees and agree to block would-be claimants from attempting to enter either country at official border crossings. Arguments will be heard over five days before Justice Ann Marie McDonald.

The Burundian woman, who cannot be named but spoke to the Toronto Star, will be one of the witnesses.

“I preferred death in my country than this treatment like a criminal in the U.S. If I were to die, I should die at home,” she said.

The bilateral pact, implemented in 2004, was originally touted by both Canadian and U.S. officials as a way to curb “asylum shopping.” However, critics have long argued that the U.S. asylum system is cruel and inhumane, especially now under President Donald Trump.

Trump’s anti-migrant policies have spurred an influx of so-called irregular migrants skirting asylum restrictions by crossing outside of Canada’s official ports of entry, where restrictions apply. More than 50,000 asylum seekers have come here that way via the U.S. over the past two years. Once here, after passing initial medical and security screenings, refugees can work and access health care pending a decision on their asylum claims.

In 2007, three advocacy groups — the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International and the Canadian Council of Churches — took Ottawa to federal court and successfully had the U.S. declared unsafe for refugees, but the decision was later overturned on appeal, largely on the grounds that the groups failed to find a lead individual litigant who was directly impacted by the policy.

After Trump’s election in November 2016 with an anti-immigration agenda, Canadian and American non-governmental organizations and refugee lawyers renewed their effort to challenge the legality of the asylum restrictions.

In 2017, they connected with a Salvadoran woman in the U.S. who sought asylum after she was raped and threatened by the notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang in El Salvador, and agreed to be the lead litigant.

The other litigants include a Syrian family of four and a young Ethiopian woman, all of whom were denied access to asylum in Canada. The three Canadian rights groups also enlisted nine other witnesses, including the Burundian woman, to provide evidence in support of the litigants’ arguments.

“This litigation is significant because this is a way for us to collectively take a position on the human rights abuses and violations against refugees and migrants in North America,” said Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

“Canadians are horrified by what’s been happening in the U.S., with (migrant) children separated from their families, refugees turned away at the Mexico border, the Muslim travel ban and all these measures in the U.S. The litigation is a way of standing up against these policies we don’t and can’t approve of.”

The litigants are expected to present evidence of human rights violations and Canadian Charter breaches in U.S. detention and asylum practices, and highlight the impact of the Safe Third Country Agreement on the most vulnerable refugees fleeing gender-based persecution and gang violence, who are singled out by the Trump administration to be excluded from the U.S. refugee definition.

“Refugee claimants that Canada turns away at our borders are exposed to grave risks of detention and mistreatment in the U.S.,” the litigants claim in their court submissions. “Refugee claimants are being detained indefinitely, in conditions that are nothing short of cruel and unusual, simply for seeking protection.”

In response to the claim, the Canadian government said the Canada-U.S. agreement is no different from similar deals in other refugee-receiving countries in response to rising global migration and forced displacement. Ottawa conducts regular reviews of the pact in order to ensure fair access to asylum, it said in a written response to the litigants’ claims.

“Claimants are returned to a highly developed asylum system that grants protection to large numbers of persons every year, and is subject to both administrative and judicial checks and balances,” it argued. “The U.S.A. complied with its international refugee protection and human rights obligations, notwithstanding debate both in the U.S.A. and internationally with respect to certain aspects of American policies and practices.”

However, the Burundian witness, who is only identified as “Morgan” because her identity is protected by the court, told the Star in an interview her experience in the U.S. tells a different story.

“With their accents, and English not being my first language, I had tremendous difficulty understanding them. They were treating me like I was trying to commit a crime,” recalled Morgan, 28, who said she had been threatened by government militia in Burundi after she and the civilian group she belonged to reported voter registration fraud in the 2015 election. Her cousin, also a member of the group, was shot and killed, she said.

“(American officials) were accusing me of fraud because my visa was for students. But I never intended to lie. All I wanted to do was leave a country where I could die any time,” added Morgan, who said getting a student visa was the only way she could get to the U.S. as a pathway to Canada.

Morgan, who has a degree in business administration back home, said she wanted to flee to French-speaking Canada, but since Ottawa does not have a visa post in Burundi she went to the U.S. consulate instead. She arrived in Pittsburgh in May 2015, before taking an overnight bus to Plattsburgh, N.Y., and from there to the official Canadian border post at Lacolle, Que.

She said she did not know about the asylum restrictions and was denied entry to Canada and detained in the U.S.

In addition to the lack of privacy in detention, Morgan said U.S. officials were “aggressive and rude” and did not help her fill out forms. She said with the one call she was allowed from jail she contacted a friend of a friend in the U.S., who found her a lawyer.

After 51 days behind bars, including 10 days in solitary confinement, she was released and had to couch-surf at the homes of people she barely knew while waiting for an asylum hearing to be scheduled. She said she was unable to support herself because immigration officials held her ID and she couldn’t get a work permit.

More than a year later, Trump won the U.S. presidential election, leaving Morgan to wonder if she would ever get asylum south of the border. When she learned people were bypassing the asylum restrictions at Canadian border crossings, she followed in the footsteps of those “irregular migrants” by crossing at Roxham Rd. in Quebec in August 2017.

However, she is still deemed inadmissible and ineligible to seek asylum in Canada because she had already been denied entry once — in 2015. Meanwhile, Canada cannot deport her to Burundi because of the current humanitarian crisis there.

“I am a victim who needs protection. It doesn’t make sense to call the U.S. a safe country,” she said. “I see how bad the consequences of this agreement are. I still can’t apply for refugee status in Canada because of this. This has to stop.”

Source: Asylum seekers turned away by Canada at the border will get the chance to explain why they feel U.S. is unsafe for refugees

Mexico’s Immigration Institute Commissioner Accused Of Racism, Xenophobia

Unfortunate comments but one can only imagine the pressure he must be under:

The leader of Mexico’s immigration office is under fire after giving statements with racial and xenophobic connotations.

Francisco Garduño is the commissioner of Mexico’s National Institute of Immigration. He stated that Mexico will deport every single transcontinental migrant and that they should take the last massive deportation as a warning.

“Even if they’re coming from Mars, we are going to send them back,” Garduño said. The audio comes from a recorded provided by Reforma newspaper.

The commissioner said the cost for having migrants from India and Africa in Mexico is high, even on a political level with the United States.

“It’s unacceptable that immigration officers are being attacked and held hostage in their own country by African men,” Garduño added, referring to the recent migrant protests at Mexico’s southern border.

Immigrant rights defenders and nonprofit organizations like Sin Fronteras are demanding the Mexican government sanction Garduño for his comments.

Source: Mexico’s Immigration Institute Commissioner Accused Of Racism, Xenophobia

Spanish government reduces irregular immigration by half

Through working with Morocco to reduce the “supply:”

The Spanish executive has reached its goal of reducing irregular immigration by half, a decision that was taken in January after arrivals in 2018 reached a record 64,298 people.

The latest official data shows 24,159 undocumented arrivals, marking the first time since 2010 that there has been such a steep drop in immigration by land and sea.

One out of every 100 migrants continues to die at sea

This decrease is largely owed to renewed efforts by Morocco to stop migrants from departing from its coastline.

“The preventive efforts by Moroccan authorities continue to be effective, and they are key to understanding the strong reduction in arrivals in Spain during 2019,” said the European Commission in an internal report to which EL PAÍS has had access. Those efforts include, among other things, preventing thousands of departures by land and the rescue of 10,700 migrants who were returned to Moroccan territory, adds the report.

Thanks to this assistance, in just a few months Spain has gone from being the main Mediterranean route for irregular immigration to showcasing itself as a role model in Europe. Spain and its European partners want to reinforce cooperation with Morocco, which has been rewarded diplomatically and financially with aid worth €180 million.

Immigrant deaths at sea have not dropped by as much. So far this year, 317 people have drowned or disappeared in the Strait of Gibraltar and the westernmost portion of the Mediterranean as they attempted to reach Spain, a 42% drop from 2018. One out of every 100 migrants continues to die at sea.

In 2018, record arrivals put irregular immigration at the top of the political agenda. Migratory pressure had been increasing since 2017, but the opposition claimed there was a push effect because of the Socialist (PSOE) administration’s decision to take in humanitarian vessels that had been rejected by Malta and Italy, such as the Aquarius NGO vessel.

Since then, the caretaker government of Socialist Party (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has adopted tougher measures, including pushback policies at the border between Morocco and the Spanish exclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla, and preventing NGO-run humanitarian ships from sailing to the central Mediterranean.

While sea arrivals are more visible, a majority of immigrants arrive by air. Although it is impossible to know how many people on tourist visas extend their stay, asylum requests have ballooned to 82,000 so far this year, a figure that is largely due to Venezuelans and Colombians who make up 32% and 23% of asylum seekers, respectively.

Source: Spanish government reduces irregular immigration by half

Election 2019: Party Platform Immigration Comparison

With all party platforms out, it is now possible to compare the written policy commitments of each party. 

While each party leader has made additional commitments on the campaign trail (e.g., Conservative Party of Canada leader Scheer on maintaining current Liberal immigration levels, New Democratic Party leader Singh pledging additional funding for Quebec integration and settlement services), this analysis looks only at the official party platforms, as these will form the basis of any future government “report card.”

In general, differences among the four main parties are a matter of nuance as all accept ongoing large numbers of immigrants, programs to facilitate integration, straight forward  pathways to citizenship  and the multicultural reality of Canada. 

The only major dissent from that overall consensus is from the People’s’ Party of Canada. The Bloc québecois’ narrow focus on Quebec issues is reflected in virtue signalling its intent to table private members’ bills that assert or seek to expand Quebec’s jurisdiction in immigration.

Party platforms reflect commitments, which are both concrete and “virtue signalling” to their respective bases and voters that they wish to attract.

The Conservative platform on immigration is sparse, with commitments that reflect their main focus on management of immigration, particularly the irregular arrivals at Roxham Road. This is balanced by their commitment to remove the cap on privately sponsored refugees while clarifying priorities for refugee selection (implicitly downplaying the UN Refugee Agency role). Commitments that reflect more strongly concerns of their base include banning values tests for Grant and Contribution programs (Canada Summer Jobs program) and re-opening the Office for Religious Freedom. 

The platform is silent on high profile issues previously raised in opposition such as M-103 on Islamophobia and other forms of racism and discrimination and their opposition to the UN’s Global Compact for Migration.

The lack of meaningful commitments on immigration levels and mix, citizenship and multiculturalism would provide a Conservative government considerable policy and program latitude should it form the government. The PPC picks up on some of issues the Conservatives dropped, along with prohibiting birth tourism and an overall hard-tone on immigration.

The Liberal platform is stay the course on immigration levels and most other policy areas. Apart from the major announcement of eliminating citizenship application fees, the platform places greatest emphasis on multiculturalism-related issues, whether it be with respect to diversity of appointments, anti-racism and anti-hate strategies, and resources to counter international far-right networks, including additional funding. The platform is silent on family reunification, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, refugees, and integration.

The NDP and Green platforms are to the left of the Conservative and Liberal platforms. Of the two, the NDP platform is the more coherent. In the event of a minority government, the almost “laundry list” approach in both platforms would provide some areas of agreement, but not their call to abolish the Safe Third Country Agreement with the USA.

Neither major party has chosen to make immigration the big issue that was predicted at the start of the campaign, reflecting that both parties need to win a substantial part of the immigrant and visible minority vote to win the election. So while there are differences in tone and substance,  these have been relatively downplayed in their respective platforms, campaign language notwithstanding.

This table (Election Platforms 2019 Comparison) highlights party positions on immigration (levels, mix, Temporary Foreign Workers, refugees, irregular asylum seekers), integration, citizenship and multiculturalism.

Immigration levels: The Conservative platform is silent on immigration levels. The Liberal platform continues the current trajectory of “modest and reasonable” annual increases along with making the Atlantic Immigration Pilot permanent and establishing a Municipal Immigration Pilot. The NDP platform states that levels should reflect labour market needs.

The Green platform commits to regularize the status of illegal (non-regularized status immigrants) and improve the pathway to permanent residency for international students and Temporary Foreign Workers.

The PPC platform proposes a cut of between 50 and 70 percent of current immigration levels, along with the addition of in person interviews to assess the “extent to which they align with Canadian values and societal norms.” The PPC also proposes increased resources to Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for the interviews and more thorough background checks.

Immigration mix:  While the Conservative, NDP and Green platforms all promise to speed up family reunification, particularly for parents and grand-parents for the Conservatives and NDP and children for the Greens, the PPC platform calls for abolishing family reunification for parents and grand-parents. The Liberal and Bloc platforms are silent.

The NDP platform calls for faster reunification of caregivers with their families. The Green platform calls for a “robust system” to assess the education and training credentials against Canadian standards prior to arrival along with clear explanations for professionals and an improved pathway to permanent residency for international students and Temporary Foreign Workers.

The PPC proposes to adjust the point system to increase the percentage of economic class immigrants.

Temporary Foreign Workers:  While the Conservative platform commits to match employment backgrounds to employment needs of companies that rely on TFWP, the Green platform calls for the replacement of Temporary Foreign Workers by increased immigration. The PPC platform calls for limiting numbers and ensuring they are only temporary. Both the NDP and Green platforms call for increased regulation of immigration consultants. 

The Liberal and Bloc platforms are silent.

Refugees: While the Conservative platform commits to the elimination of the cap for privately sponsored refugees, the PPC calls for relying solely on private sponsorship, accepting fewer refugees, no longer “relying” on the UN for refugee selection, and taking Canada out of the UN Global Compact for Migration.

The Conservative platform places priority on genocide survivors, LGBTQ+ refugees, and internally-displaced persons while the PPC platform places priority on persecuted religious minorities (e.g.,  Christians, Yazidis) in majority Muslim countries.

The NDP program calls for increased support for refugee integration. The Bloc calls for a moratorium on deportations to countries in conflict or where the life of a refugee would be in danger. The Liberal platform is silent.

Asylum seekers (Safe Third Country Agreement): While the Conservative platform calls for closing the loophole in the STCA that allows irregular arrivals between official border crossings, the Liberal platform states that it will work with the USA to “modernize” the Agreement. The NDP, Greens and Bloc call for its termination. 

The PPC would declare the whole border an official port of entry , deport irregular arrivals,  and fence frequently used border crossings like Roxham Road.

The Conservative platform commits to speed up refugee processing by deploying Immigration and Refugee Board judges to common arrival points and speed up deportations by hiring an addition 250 CBSA agents. The Green platform calls for the establishment of a Civilian Complaints and Review Commission for CBSA. The Bloc platform calls for the hiring of additional IRB members in Quebec to adjudicate claims.

Integration (settlement services): The Conservative platform commits to continue supporting settlement services while the Green platform calls for increased funding for language training through earmarked transfers to the provinces. The platform also calls for increased funding to multicultural organizations to provide language and other services. No other party makes integration commitments.

Citizenship: The Liberal platform commits to eliminate citizenship fees (currently $630 for adult applications). The Green platform commits to address the remaining cases of “lost Canadians” while the PPC platform commits to change the Citizenship Act to make birth tourism illegal.

Multiculturalism: The Conservative platform commits to end values tests for government G&C programs (e.g., the Summer Jobs program) and to reopen the Office of Religious Freedom.

The Liberal platform promises to continue improving the diversity of GiC appointments and senior levels of the public service. The Anti-Racism Strategy will be strengthened through doubling funding, along with increased G&C funding. The platform commits to improve the quality and amount of data collection regarding hate crimes. An additional $6 million over three years will be provided to the Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence along with resources to counter the rise of international far-right networks and terrorist organizations.

Both the Liberal and NDP platforms commit to hold social media companies accountable for hate speech.

The NDP platform has the longest list of commitments including: ensuring all major cities have dedicated hate crime units; the convening of a national working group to counter online hate; funding for anti-gang projects to deter at-risk youth from joining gangs or becoming radicalized; a ban on carding by federal law enforcement and working to end carding in all jurisdictions; and a national task force to develop a roadmap to end over-representation of Indigenous and visible minorities in prison populations, along with an African Canadian Justice Strategy.

The Green platform commits to improving the integration into the multicultural fabric, assisting cultural organizations to obtain charitable status, amending the Anti-Terrorism Act and Public Safety Act to require that formal charges be brought against all those detained and lastly, investigating allegations that Canadian officials cooperated with foreign agencies known to use torture.

The PPC platform commits to repealing the Multiculturalism Act and eliminating funding that promotes multiculturalism.

The Bloc platform focusses exclusively on Quebec jurisdiction questions: opposing any federal intervention in Bill 21 and laïcité; strengthening relations with immigrant communities;  private member bill “virtue signalling” with respect to exempting Quebec from the Multiculturalism Act; banning offering or receiving public services with face covered; having citizenship applicants living in Quebec demonstrate knowledge of French; and making federally regulated sectors (banks, transport, communications) located in Quebec subject to Bill 101.

Experts say Scheer’s plan to close border loophole ‘doomed to failure’

More political positioning than realistic options for many of the reasons listed:

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer says that, if elected, he would close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) that allows people to make refugee claims in Canada even if they enter the country at an unofficial border crossing.

The Conservatives also aren’t ruling out creating detention camps at the border to house irregular migrants while their claims are being processed.

Asked directly if detention camps were something a Conservative government would create at the border, the Conservatives said the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides criteria for detaining asylum seekers. This leaves the option of creating detention camps at the border open.

Scheer’s pledge, made Wednesday at Roxham Road in Quebec, came with few details on exactly how he would close the loophole.

Scheer said his “preferred option” would be to renegotiate the STCA with the U.S., but when pressed on what he would do if U.S. President Donald Trump refused to make a deal, Scheer was light on details.

“There are other options. There are other tools available to the government that we will also be exploring,” Scheer said.

The rising rhetoric around refugees is fuelling many falsehoods about whether these new arrivals pose a threat

One of these options is to declare the entire Canada-U.S. border an official port of entry. This way, people entering the country would be covered by the STCA and — if they do not qualify for an exemption under the agreement — would be sent back to the U.S.

Scheer suggested this is one of the options he’s looking at when he said “we can apply the principles of the Safe Third Country Agreement at other points along the border.”

But migration experts, border security officials and the government have questioned whether this is possible.

Sharry Aiken, a Queen’s University law professor, says any plan to scrap the loophole in the STCA without agreement from the U.S. is “doomed to failure.”

Meanwhile, she says expanding the agreement to cover the entire border is nonsensical because Canada does not have the resources to enforce this type of mass “securitization” of the border, nor is this type of strategy effective.

Aiken points to the U.S.-Mexico border as an example of why increased security does not mean fewer irregular migrants.

“As we can see in relation to what’s going on with respect to America’s efforts in relation to Mexico, they’re an abysmal failure,” she said. “People are still crossing, just at higher costs and at peril to their lives. People are dying all the time.”

A Conservative spokesperson later clarified Scheer’s comments on this issue. The Conservatives said it’s not their policy to expand official port of entry status to the entire border. Instead, they would “pursue a regulatory approach to ensure that the principles of the Safe Third Country Agreement are applied and people are not able to jump the queue.”

Promise would require new legislation

Since spring 2017, there has been a significant influx of asylum seekers in Canada, many of whom entered the country irregularly at unofficial border crossings.

The total number of asylum claims made in Canada in 2018 was 55,000, of which about one-third crossed the border irregularly. This was up from 23,500 total claims two years earlier.

In addition to pledging to close the loophole in the STCA, Scheer said he would move existing judges from the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) closer to the border and widely used unofficial crossings to speed up the processing time for claims and make crossing “illegally” less attractive.

But Aiken and others say Scheer could not do this without first introducing new legislation to change the IRB’s mandate. That’s because the IRB operates independently of the government, and administrative decisions are strictly the authority of the IRB’s chairperson, she said.

Raoul Boulakia, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer, says moving refugee judges to the border would also make it a lot harder for asylum seekers to access a lawyer — a right they are guaranteed under Canada’s Constitution.

Meanwhile, Craig Damian Smith, director of the Global Migration Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, said Scheer’s pledge lacks vital details.

For example, he wonders if Scheer would create detention camps at the border for asylum seekers who enter the country irregularly to be held while their claims are processed.

Scheer claims asylum seekers are ‘skipping the line’

Smith also questions the logistics of the move. The IRB isn’t just made up of judges, he said. There are translators, administrative staff, offices and other things needed in order for claims to be heard and judges to be able to do their jobs.

Smith says holding asylum seekers at the border while their claims are processed — no matter how quickly this is done — presents other problems, such as limiting their ability to work, pay taxes and receive health care.

The Conservative Party, meanwhile, says that if elected, it will amend existing immigration legislation and regulations to make sure IRB judges can be deployed to irregular crossing “hot spots.”

The money needed to relocate IRB judges will come from existing budgets, Conservatives say, adding that there are no plans to change current work-permit rules for people whose asylum claims are allowed to go forward.

Ex-minister under Hussein made refugee claim in Canada

Conservatives point out that immigration detention already takes place in Canada. However, there are currently no immigration detention centres at the border. Instead, would-be refugees who cannot prove their identity, are a flight risk or who could pose a security risk are detained at facilities in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Some asylum seekers are also held in long-term detention in provincial jails. According statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency, the average stay in immigration detention in 2017-18 was 14 days.

Under current rules, asylum seekers are allowed to move freely within Canada once their claims are made and so long as they are not detained. Unless laws are changed, Smith said, moving IRB judges to the border would not change this and likely will not speed up the hearing process.

Scheer has repeatedly said closing the STCA loophole would make Canada’s immigration system fairer, more orderly and more compassionate.

Source: Experts say Scheer’s plan to close border loophole ‘doomed to failure”

How a special program to resettle Vietnamese boat people revealed flaws in Canada’s immigration system

Good investigative reporting. How a good initiative appears to have been undermined and exploited.

Amusing, however, to see Alberta Premier and former federal immigration minister Jason Kenney’s office state that” he is fully focused on Alberta now” just after his weekend campaigning for the federal conservatives in the 905:

Vo Van Dung gave the television cameras a thumbs-up as he walked through Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

Along with more than 100 Vietnamese “boat people” who arrived in Canada between 2014 and 2017, he was landing in the country after seemingly living in the shadows of society for the previous 20 years.

Rather than live under Communist rule in Vietnam, many who fled their homeland after the Vietnam War sought refuge in neighbouring Thailand in the 1970s and ’80s.

But refuge came with a price. For decades, they were living “without status” or as “stateless” people. They could not work without the threat of being arrested or fined. They had no access to health care. Some relied on donations to make ends meet.

They had few to no options until Canada accepted them under a special program designed to resettle boat people who had been living under desperate circumstances.

A business card identifies Vo as director of Saigon Red Travel, which has its headquarters in Vietnam.(Submitted)

But CBC News has learned that Vo was apparently living a more privileged life prior to coming to Canada.

The 57-year-old had been running a tour guide business. Headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Saigon Red Travel Company Limited offered tours between Vietnam and Thailand. And Vo wasn’t shy about his business and travel ventures, posing for photos with employees that were posted to social media.

Records obtained by CBC show the business began operating in 2014, two years before Vo arrived in Canada.(CBC)

A CBC investigation into the program has found at least five people, including Vo, ended up in Canada even though they do not appear to be those the government wanted to help, raising questions about the checks and balances meant to protect the country’s immigration system.

“Canada is known for being an international example for humanitarian endeavours, for people who are displaced, for people who are in trouble somehow,” said Guiddy Mamann, a refugee lawyer in Toronto.

“If people took the place of a more deserving candidate, then that would trouble me a lot.”

Vo did not respond to CBC’s requests for comment. But when CBC News asked an acquaintance of his about his business and lifestyle, he said Vo goes back and forth between Vietnam, Thailand and greater Vancouver and “thinks he’s doing very well.”

Who are the stateless?

A humanitarian crisis ensued following the fall of Saigon in 1975. Close to one million people fled from Vietnam — many by boat. Their journeys were perilous. The United Nations estimates up to 250,000 boat people died at sea.

Many of the boat people who did make it landed in neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand.

Canada alone took in more than 100,000 refugees after the war.

In 1996, Vietnam repatriated tens of thousands of boat people from abroad. Those who did not want to go back because of fear of persecution back home escaped from refugee camps, living stateless in places like Thailand.

In 2006, the Vietnamese Canadian Federation (VCF), along with a U.S.-based group called the Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE), appealed to the Canadian government to bring over a number of stranded people from Thailand.

Current Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who was federal immigration minister at the time, met discreetly with Thai government officials to ensure they would be provided exit permits to leave the country.

A Canadian government official says Thai officials did not want to raise awareness about the program for fear that thousands of people would enter the country illegally and turn their country into an immigration hub.

“I actually went to Bangkok … and we had a lot of negotiations,” Kenney told a room full of recently arrived stranded people in Vancouver, according to a YouTube video of the 2014 session. “We promised to do this negotiation in a discreet way.”

According to a senior government official and another person consulted in developing the resettlement program, the conditions for the more than 100 people who were eventually let in were narrow and specific: those who were selected had to have remained in Thailand after leaving Vietnam between 1984 and 1991. This meant anyone who had been repatriated back to Vietnam or lived elsewhere would not qualify.

But Mamann, the Toronto immigration lawyer, said there were major shortcomings in program’s written policy, which was called a “Memorandum Of Understanding Relating To A Temporary Public Policy Concerning Certain Vietnamese Persons In Thailand.”

The MOU said that applicants had to have arrived from Vietnam between 1984 and 1991 and be residing in Thailand — but it never specifically said that they had to have lived continuously in Thailand the entire time.

“This is an obvious error…. The whole underpinning of this thing was we believe that you can’t go back to your country [and] that you’re stuck here. You’re like on an island in the middle of the ocean and we have to come and rescue you,” said Mamann. “The language was sloppy and not precise.”

The first wave of people arrived in Canada in 2014, with the last family arriving in 2017.

But towards the end of the program, the Vietnamese community in North America and overseas began criticizing some of those who were chosen for it.

‘Please help us’

Nguyen Tu, a former boat person who runs a cyber security company in Houston, began investigating the concerns in 2016 after receiving tips about the program from people stranded in Thailand.

He travelled to Vietnam and Thailand and heard allegations that a number of vulnerable people who believe they should have been accepted into the program had been overlooked.

“Several boat people from Thailand contacted me … [saying]: ‘Please help us, help us,’ ” said Nguyen.

The claims and the numbers of incidents prompted him to arrange meetings with officials from the Thailand Immigration Bureau, the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP in Thailand. He said he provided them with material he had uncovered.

Then in May 2019, Father Nguyen Thien, a U.S.-based priest, along with Dau Vu Bac, a former boat person living in the U.S., hosted a Facebook video live from Bangkok in a room of stateless Vietnamese making more allegations.

The video, viewed close 50,000 times, accused groups such as VOICE of selecting people such as Vo Van Dung, who had gone back to Vietnam, over them.

“It’s my understanding that some of those people didn’t deserve to go as boat people,” Dau said in Vietnamese. “So those people shouldn’t have gone, but were sponsored by VOICE anyway.”

CBC spoke to two people who had been living on the margins in Thailand and say they were left off the list.

Pham Ty said he arrived in Thailand in 1991 and lived at a number of refugee camps over a period of years. Almost 30 years later, he said he still lives in a town near the Thailand-Cambodian border.

He said he applied for the Canadian resettlement program but wasn’t selected and wasn’t given an explanation why.

“I believe in fairness. I believe that God and Buddha and the heavens will see everything. There’s no point in blaming other people,” he said when asked whether he was upset others got into Canada instead of him. “If I’m allowed [into Canada] I would be grateful.”

The other cases

Through sources, business records, social media accounts, emails and archival footage on Vietnamese television, CBC found at least five questionable candidates for the program.

One of those people is Truong Lan Anh, who according to her social media account, lives in Ottawa. She arrived in 2016 but business records for a travel company based in Vietnam, showed Truong Thi Lan Anh as the owner since 2012.

Facebook photos showed her taking photos at the business in 2013. An employee at the travel agency, according to a video obtained by CBC, confirmed Truong was her employer.

Truong did not respond to CBC’s requests for comment.

Another case involved Sabay Kieng. In 2014, he was welcomed to a gallery of media and supporters as he arrived in Toronto. Kieng said he had been struggling for years trying to support his family.

“I [wanted] to find a job. It’s not easy so I sell some fruit on the street [in Thailand] … to feed my son and my wife,” he told CBC in a telephone interview.

He’s said he’s working in automotive manufacturing in the Greater Toronto Area.

But CBC obtained records, photos and videos that showed he had been running a jewelry and crafts business in Cambodia called Craftworks Cambodia since at least 2008. He travelled at one point to Manilla to give a talk about his business experience at a conference.

Kieng confirmed to CBC that he had businesses in Cambodia but said he did not live there, only near the border.

But according to a former business associate, he lived in a house in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, before coming to Canada.

“I think compared to a lot of people in Cambodia, he was living quite well,” the business associate told CBC. “He went straight to Canada. I mean, he had to go immediately when he got the approval.”

CBC tried reaching Kieng on the phone again but he said he was “busy” before hanging up.

CBC made further attempts to get a comment about these inconsistencies but did not get a response.

‘A very ominous cloud’

Nguyen Dinh Thang, chief executive officer for Boat People S.O.S, an American non-profit organization that provides legal assistance for Vietnamese refugees abroad, had serious questions about the program as well after CBC showed him examples it had found, including the case involving Vo.

“They cannot even work legally in Thailand let alone [run] a business in Thailand or in other countries,” said Nguyen, who was in discussions with the Vietnamese Canadian Foundation during the negotiations on the agreement. “If they are truly stranded, they may not.”

While the MOU is vague and never specifically said that applicants had to be residing in Thailand the entire time, after reviewing CBC’s examples, Nguyen does not think these are the types of people the Canadian government intended on helping based on the intent of the policy.

“None of those cases would be eligible, under this temporary special program,” he said.

The process of selecting people went like this: the VCF was responsible for identifying potential candidates, but looked to VOICE to help stranded people in Thailand complete and submit applications to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada).

Once the list of potential applicants was passed on to Canadian immigration officials, the federal government would be responsible for interviewing people and to ultimately ensure their eligibility for entry into Canada.

Nguyen, who provides legal assistance for Vietnamese refugees in Thailand, said he is “perplexed by the lack of internal control” by the Canadian government because if there is any suspicious activity, that would “clearly cast a very ominous cloud” on all refugee programs.

“It is the responsibility of immigration to screen and serve as the first line of defence to protect the integrity of the country’s immigration program,” said Nguyen.

The VCF said it was not aware of any questionable candidates coming into Canada and that the final decision to let anyone into Canada rested with Canadian immigration.

A senior government official involved in helping create the program told CBC the government would not have agreed to this program if it was aware of people coming from Vietnam to Thailand after repatriation or elsewhere.

He said that it would “undermine the claim they had no alternative option available to them.”

‘It’s unfair’

CBC showed VOICE co-founder Trinh Hoi examples of people who critics say did not deserve to come, including Vo.

“Just because someone got resettled here doesn’t mean that the person cannot go back to Vietnam and visit his homeland,” said Trinh.

“You cannot use one story of someone who has been able to do well or relatively well … to illustrate and say that the refugees were not stateless and were not desperate — it’s unfair,” he said.

“When one person took advantage, and I’m not even saying [Vo] took advantage of the system, if he’s eligible under the law … he should be considered if he meets [the] criteria,” he said.

Trinh said the names submitted to the Canadian government were “eligible to the best of my knowledge” and that his job was to “refer those cases for consideration” with the federal government.

He denied he or his group did anything untoward, refuting the assertions in the video.

‘We take those concerns very seriously’

A government source confirmed to CBC that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is investigating potential violations under the Immigration, Refugee Protection Act but would not indicate who, if any, specific individuals are being investigated.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Minister Ahmed Hussen would not comment on any of these allegations but did say that confidence in Canada’s immigration system is of utmost importance.

“I think it’s important for us to continue to maintain the integrity of our system. We take any allegation of fraud or anything that threatens the integrity of our refugee system very very seriously,” said Hussen.

Hussen said he couldn’t comment on the considerations that were made at the time the program was established because it was set up by the previous government.

Kenney’s office declined to comment on the matter and told CBC “it’s been a long time since he was immigration minister and he is fully focused on Alberta now.”

Source: How a special program to resettle Vietnamese boat people revealed flaws in Canada’s immigration system

Douglas Todd: Greens push to welcome ‘environmental refugees’ to Canada

Has been discussed for some time but with climate change accelerating, will likely see more pressures:

Amita Kettner’s mother was killed when a mudslide wiped out the family home in North Vancouver.

The Green party candidate for Burnaby North was 14 when the sudden burst of extreme weather struck in 2005, sweeping Eliza Wing Mun Kettner and her house down an embankment.

The tragic family history adds to why Kettner, along with the Green party of Canada, is impassioned about the party’s out-of-the-ordinary election promise to advocate for making “environmental refugee” a new immigration category in Canada.

“We, as a country, have a certain amount of prosperity and comfort, and we can prepare to have climate refugees. That is not something that everywhere else can do,” says Kettner, who recently obtained a PhD in astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Clara.

Soon many regions of the globe are “likely to be on fire, or underwater or having crop failures,” said Kettner.

“We might not have to take refugees that come overland (entering Canada from the U.S.), but it’s possible we might see mass migration from the equatorial band. I think we should be ready to accept people from everywhere and anywhere.”

The Green party knows it faces an uphill battle on the issue, since the United Nations refugee agency, which currently defines refugees as people escaping war and persecution, has failed to come up with a definition of environmental refugee, citing legal and political complications.

Nevertheless, the party’s 2019 platform declares it intends to “lead a national discussion to define the term ‘environmental refugee,’ advocate for its inclusion as a refugee category in Canada, and accept an appropriate share of the world’s environmental refugees into Canada.”

With tens of thousands of Canadians joining climate-change protests on Friday and the environment ranking as leading election issue, projections about the potential scale of the climate crisis still vary. One widely cited study, from the United Nations University, suggests there will be 200 million environmental migrants by 2050.

Experts are also concerned that only the wealthy will have a chance to emigrate from the world’s increasingly hot spots, which could be devastated by water shortages, crop failure and extreme weather. This year, for instance, severe drought hit East Africa, unusual typhoons battered the Philippines, and crops withered in Honduras.

Sanjay Jeram. GERRY KAHRMANN / PNG

Simon Fraser University political scientist Sanjay Jeram says the Canadian Greens’  enthusiasm for broadening the refugee category “comes at an interesting time when, across the Western world, we have seen parties — on the left and right — express hesitation about their state’s capacity to take in refugees.”

Even people sympathetic to the plight of refugees are timid about reopening the definition used by the United Nations convention, Jeram said. They fear some nation-states will use it as an opportunity to withdraw from current commitments to take in people escaping war and persecution, of which there are more than 22 million.

Nevertheless, Sanjay pointed to New Zealand as a potential example for Canada to follow, since some of its politicians have been exploring how to make climate change a legitimate ground for an asylum claim.

Last year New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern planned to create a special visa for Pacific Islanders forced to relocate because of rising sea levels. She hoped her nation, as a precedent, could offer 100 visas each year. Ardern’s plan, however, has run into legal barriers.

Like many environmental specialists, Kuttner, who wouldn’t speculate about how many environmental refugees Canada might accept, is concerned that rich and educated people will be most likely to escape climate-change calamity in their regions, including through migration to countries like Canada, which are somewhat less vulnerable.

“There’s a definite sense that some people, if they have enough capital, will be able to hide themselves from climate disaster,” Kuttner said.

“It’s definitely true that the more money people have the easier it is to handle large climate changes. But even for the well-off it’s still a gamble.”

Andy Yan. NICK PROCAYLO/ PNG

Andy Yan, director of the city program at Simon Fraser University, says it’s possible some people around the world who can afford it are trying to find a haven from climate change by migrating to Metro Vancouver and other parts of North America.

“That would probably be a factor. It goes into the idea of Metro Vancouver as a ‘hedge city.’ It’s not only about looking to create financial and political stability, it’s increasingly about searching for climate stability.”

That said, Yan is among those warning Metro Vancouver and Canada will not be immune from climate-change problems. He cites a recent study by University of Victoria scientists projecting that Vancouver could be warmer than San Diego by 2050, causing nearby forest fires and water shortages.

While it’s important to have discussions about our humanitarian responsibilities to the world’s migrants, however defined, Yan said the value of facing up to the potential for a mass movement of environmental refugees is that it reminds us to first take decisive action against climate change itself.

“How about having government policies that prevent the situation to begin with?”

Source: Douglas Todd: Greens push to welcome ‘environmental refugees’ to Canada

Italy changes course on immigration with new minister Luciana Lamorgese

Notable shift:

This weekend, while idling in the Mediterranean Sea between Malta and Italy, the bright red and white Ocean Viking humanitarian ship suddenly set off in a strong, clear course toward the southern-most Italian island of Lampedusa.

The ship had just received permission from Italy to sail to Lampedusa, setting off a wave of relief for the 82 rescued people onboard. It also marked the first tangible evidence of a sweeping change in course to Italy’s — and possibly Europe’s — approach to the controversial issue of immigration.

Italy’s newly formed ruling coalition of the populist Five Star movement and left-leaning Democratic Party has decided to once again allow humanitarian rescue ships to dock here after more than a year of blocking ships under Matteo Salvini, the former minister of the interior. And it has made a swift deal with several EU countries to share the migrants aboard the Ocean Viking.

“Basically Italy is saying to Europe, we’re breaking with the past policy,” says Annalisa Camilli, immigration expert and author of La Legge del Mare – The Law of The Sea. “It’s a big message that Italy has chosen to come back in line with Germany, France and Spain instead of aligning with [anti-migrant] countries such as Hungary and Poland under the former far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini.”

The change comes with the government’s replacement of Salvini with the southern Italian lawyer Luciana Lamorgese. She’s the first woman to hold the job and, says Camilli, could not be more different in style and substance than Salvini.

Lamorgese has a deep and nuanced understanding of immigration policy with more 30 years experience in the Interior Ministry that deals with immigration. She’s the only so-called ‘technocrat’ in the cabinet, with no political allegiances. And she has worked mostly under the radar.

Not on Twitter or Facebook

“Lamorgese has no social profile. She’s not on Twitter or Facebook,” says Emiliana De Blasio, a political expert with Rome’s Luiss University. “She’s super partes and has worked with both rightist and leftist governments. She’s an institutional woman, not a politician, and because of that, Salvini has never attacked her and will find it more difficult to now.”

Until earlier this month when, in a political miscalculation, Salvini ousted himself from government, the far-right leader dominated the discourse on migration in Italy. In his near daily rants posted on social media, he amplified unproven conspiracy theories that humanitarian rescuers colluded with human traffickers; cultivated fears of a migrant invasion even as arrivals dropped by 80 per cent due to EU deals with African countries to try to stop migrants from entering Libya; and lashed out against the EU, while shutting down dialogue with its neighbours.

His refusal to allow migrant rescue ships to dock triggered some two dozen standoffs between Italy and rescuers — NGO, commercial and even Italy’s own naval ships — forcing migrant-crammed vessels to remain stranded at sea for up to three weeks. He also passed two so-called security decrees that cancelled special humanitarian assistance for asylum seekers and criminalized the NGO rescuers.

But if the choice of Lamorgese to replace Salvini signals a radical departure, the move is more political jujitsu than a counterstrike.

“They have seen that politicizing migration has divided the society, and basically they want to overcome this polarized vision of reality by defusing it,” Camilli said.

Lamorgese will do that by quietly getting to work, she added.

Talking with Europe about refugees

Already negotiations with Europe to share migrants and financially penalize countries that don’t are underway, as well as discussions about relaunching an EU naval patrol in the Mediterranean.

Members of the Democratic Party are pushing for Italy to reprise a lead role in setting up  a German- and France-backed EU investment scheme in African countries to stem the flow of migrants and forging bilateral accords with those same countries to take back people who don’t qualify as refugees.

And here in Italy, reforming the country’s antiquated 16-year-old law on immigration is a top priority.

“I think we’re going to be hearing less about the invasion of migrants from the sea and more about how to grant long-term legal status to the 600,000 immigrants who have been living and working as agricultural workers and caregivers in Italy for years,” said Camilli.

Still, the issue of migrant flows across the Mediterranean from Africa is hardly going away. Even with the number of arrivals to Italy under 6,000 so far this year, more than 50,000 migrants crossed to Spain and Greece.

And how European countries deal with the sea crossings will remain contentious and of urgent concern to human rights observers.

NGOs watching how she handles human rights

In Italy, migrant rescue NGOs will be watching closely to see how Lamorgese deals with protecting the human rights of migrants in Libya where they are held captive in overcrowded barracks, tortured and extorted.

Under the previous Democratic Party interior minister Marco Minniti, Lamorgese worked to back a plan that funded the Libyan militias who ran their coast guard to intercept migrant-crammed dinghies and send the people back to captivity. Experts say the move merely fuelled human trafficking. Many migrants whose dinghies later made it past the Libyan patrols reported being trapped in a vicious cycle: Having to pay traffickers to board the rubber boats, being caught by the Libyan coast guard and brought back to the traffickers, only to have to pay them again for another attempt to escape.

“Italian ports will be open to humanitarian rescue ships, but at the same time they’ll fund extra-European countries such as Turkey, Libya, Tunisia and Sudan to block the immigration flows before they reach EU borders,” said Camilli.

Remaining as low-profile as she has been throughout her career, Lamorgese has not made any public statements about her new role as interior minister or given interviews about her plans.

But Democratic Party members of Italy’s new coalition government insist that the country is on a new course.

“Our approach is completely different from Salvini. We’re not trying to stop immigration, but manage it,” says Democratic head Senator Andrea Marcucci. “We must care about human beings and human rights. We must also see the Mediterranean as our future and as a place that provides opportunities and not only a terrible place that links us to Africa over immigration.”

It’s a promise that’s been made by previous governments, Marcucci admits.

But, say observers, if this new government lasts, Lamorgese has as good a chance as any at making inroads.

Source: Italy changes course on immigration with new minister Luciana Lamorgese