Biden administration announces asylum system overhaul: What you need to know

Useful overview:

The Biden administration announced the final version of its long-awaited U.S. asylum overhaul Thursday, aiming to speed up processing at the border and alleviate backlogs throughout the country’s immigration courts.

Fixing asylum, a process that can drag out for years, was one of President Biden’s campaign promises. The overhaul represents the most significant change to the nation’s immigration system since he took office.

The new policy is scheduled to take effect May 28, two months after it’s published in the Federal Register. The change won’t affect most asylum seekers as long as a pandemic-related rule limiting access at the border remains in force. But the new system will probably be in place once that rule is lifted and the uptick in asylum requests begins.

“The current system for handling asylum claims at our borders has long needed repair,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a news release. “Through this rule, we are building a more functional and sensible asylum system to ensure that individuals who are eligible will receive protection more swiftly, while those who are not eligible will be rapidly removed.”

Asylum seekers will now have their claims heard by an asylum officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within several months, if the plan works as intended, instead of waiting years for a final determination from an immigration judge.

The Homeland Security and Justice departments released a draft proposal in August. After reading through 5,000 public comments about the draft, officials on a call with reporters Wednesday said they made some changes but maintained the overall framework of the proposal. The officials — from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts — spoke to reporters on condition that they not be named.

Under the rule, anyone denied protection by an asylum officer could request a reconsideration from Citizenship and Immigration Services within seven days. If turned down, the person could ask that an immigration judge review their application and later bring their case to the Board of Immigration Appeals and federal circuit courts. After all bids are exhausted, or if none are pursued, the person would be subject to deportation. The rule does not apply to unaccompanied children who arrive without a parent

Supporters say the policy improves what has long been considered a scary process for traumatized migrants. Instead of having to initially recount their worst experiences in an adversarial court setting as they defend themselves against deportation, migrants will now be able to make their case in an asylum office.

But many advocates worry the changes weaken constitutional due process rights for asylum seekers by essentially expanding the so-called expedited removal process, a mechanism used to quickly turn back immigrants apprehended at the border.

Richard Caldarone, who manages litigation at the Tahirih Justice Center, a national nonprofit serving immigrants who fled gender-based violence, said the new process serves no significant humanitarian purpose because it doesn’t give trauma survivors enough time to find a lawyer, gather evidence and recover.

“Survivors of trauma will not be able to recite what happened to them 72 hours after arriving in a safe place to a government official,” he said. “Given the emphasis that DHS has placed on speed for asylum seekers, this will be like the former process — designed in a way that will systematically fail to elicit people’s best asylum claims.”

A better system, Caldarone said, would give people a year before their asylum hearing to prepare and then quickly provide a decision as to whether they could stay or be deported. That would allow people to heal from trauma and lead to fewer appeals, he argued.

The backlog of pending immigration court cases has exploded in recent months, reaching nearly 1.6 million by December, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan data research center at Syracuse University. It has tripled since 2016.

Under the new system, asylum officers will grant decisions within roughly 90 days. Immigration court appeals will generally take another 90 days, officials said.

During his first year in office, Biden took roughly 300 executive actions on immigration, nearly a third of them to reverse course on Trump-era policies, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

One area he did not change: For the last two years, the border has been closed to the vast majority of asylum seekers under a restrictive pandemic-era policy initiated by former President Trump. The policy, known as Title 42, invokes a 1944 public health statute to quickly expel migrants who attempt to enter the U.S. in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Among more than 1.7 million people detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the southwest border during fiscal year 2021, 61% were expelled under Title 42, according to agency data.

Experts say those rapid removals under Title 42 resulted in an increase in unauthorized crossings into the U.S. by people who would have otherwise requested asylum at an official port of entry. The rapid removals back to Mexico also led to repeated border crossing attempts by migrants — inflating the number of Customs and Border Protection apprehensions.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally ended that policy for children traveling without a parent, saying their expulsion “is not warranted to protect the public health.” Immigrant advocates and Democratic congressional leaders have argued that the policy is illegal and have ramped up calls in recent weeks to also end its application to adults traveling alone and parents traveling with their children.

But asylum seekers will see no substantial changes, even once the updates are in place, until the CDC decides to end Title 42 entirely. In recent weeks, as the response to the pandemic has changed within the U.S., federal officials have begun planningfor the possible end of the policy.

The asylum overhaul will be implemented in phases, though officials said they have yet to decide where to roll out the initial program and whether to target any specific population, such as single adults or families.

On a call with reporters last week, Mayorkas said the phased implementation of the new asylum system is designed to avoid straining Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency has teetered on bankruptcy, he added, and was “virtually dismantled” under the Trump administration, whose immigration approach deterred many immigrants from filing applications before the pandemic further reduced the agency’s caseload.

“We have to be mindful of the resource constraints of the asylum division in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as we rebuild that agency,” he said, noting that the agency is almost entirely funded by application fees.

Under the proposed rule, the agency estimated it would need to hire 800 new employees and spend $180 million to be able to handle 75,000 cases annually.

Before the pandemic, migrants encountered near the border were screened by agency asylum officers for fear of persecution. Those who passed the initial screening would have their cases moved to the immigration courts, where a judge would decide whether they qualified for asylum or another form of protection and could stay in the U.S.

Meanwhile, they were detained or released pending a final court hearing. Immigrants facing deportation don’t have the same right to a publicly funded attorney as people in criminal proceedings, and most represent themselves.

To qualify for asylum, immigrants must prove a fear of persecution in their home country based on one of five protected categories: political opinion, race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group.

Officials hope the new asylum policy will curb unauthorized migration.

“The ability to stay in the United States for years waiting for an initial decision may motivate unauthorized border crossings by individuals who otherwise would not have sought to enter the United States and who lack a meritorious protection claim,” the rule states.

The goal is also to reduce the stress for those who ultimately receive asylum or other immigration protections, according to the rule, as currently, “they are left in limbo as to whether they might still be removed, are unable to lawfully work until their asylum application has been granted or has remained pending for several months, and are unable to petition for qualified family members, some of whom may still be at risk of harm.”

Source: Biden administration announces asylum system overhaul: What you need to know

Canada urged to create dedicated asylum pathway for Hong Kongers fleeing political persecution

Expect pressure to grow. As Waldman notes, better to do so discretely:

Canada must create a dedicated asylum pathway for Hong Kongers fleeing Beijing’s clampdown on political opposition in the former British territory, Canadian MPs were told Monday.

“This is not a conventional humanitarian crisis, so conventional solutions are not effective for those who need our help,” Cherie Wong, executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, an umbrella group that supported the Asian city’s pro-democracy movement, told the House of Commons immigration committee.

She told MPs that an immigration program unveiled last November to bring young Hong Kongers to Canada is only useful for upper-middle-class graduates and “fails to consider the realities of everyday people of Hong Kong.”

Reverend Brian Wong, a Canadian from Hong Kong with the Mustard Seeds Hong Kong Concern Group, concurred in his comments to MPs, saying dissidents come from many backgrounds. “Canada needs to come up with a inclusive policy to accommodate the needs of a broad spectrum of Hong Kong people at the risk of political persecution.”

Alliance Canada Hong Kong’s Ms. Wong described life for many of the Hong Kongers who marched in protests for a year before the national security law was enacted, noting they were targeted by “systematic surveillance operations, including having plainclothes officers stationed at the airports, loitering inside international terminals” and boarding areas.

“We have friends whose travel documents are confiscated, teammates monitored and followed who are scared for their lives, and fellow activists who are arrested while looking for options to leave. The Hong Kong government is even looking at legislation to impose exit bans and further suppress freedom of movement,” she said.

The Chinese government imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong last June, ostensibly to target secession, subversion and terrorism, but with vaguely defined offences that critics say effectively criminalize dissent and opposition to the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.

More than 100 prominent Hong Kong political figures have already been arrested under this law, which carries penalties up to life imprisonment. Western countries, including Canada, have decried this crackdown as a violation of Beijing’s treaty pledge to maintain civil rights and the rule of law in the former British colony for 50 years after the 1997 handover.

The British government has offered a path to citizenship for many Hong Kongers, but this still leaves many stranded as authorities in Hong Kong arrest journalists, ban access to websites, seize cell phones and computers and fire teachers and union activists.

So far, Canada has accepted at least 15 asylum claimants as political refugees, according to Jane Lee of the New Hong Kong Cultural Club, a group of Canadian supporters of democracy in Hong Kong with branches in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver that has helped 30 people from the former British colony to seek safe haven in Canada.

All these claimants, however, arrived before COVID-19 travel restrictions. The big problem facing persecuted Hong Kongers today is they cannot board a plane to reach countries such as Canada to claim asylum.

Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman said he’s been approached by Hong Kongers who want to leave but cannot because of flight restrictions. ”There definitely are people who need to get out and are at serious risk,” he said.

Advocates urged Canada to help funnel travel documents via non-governmental organizations to persecuted Hong Kongers in the Asian city, much like Ottawa once helped persecuted gay Iranians and Chechens reach Canada.

If Canada plans such action, Ottawa “shouldn’t and won’t make a big fanfare about this,” Mr. Waldman said.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan suggested the federal Department of Immigration issue “minister’s permits” that would allow Hong Kongers to leave for Canada while applications are being processed.

Canada-Hong Kong ties run deep. There are several hundred thousand Canadians of Hong Kong origin living in Canada and 300,000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong now. More than 1,970 Canadians were deployed to defend Hong Kong from the Japanese in the Second World War and 554 lost their lives as a result.

Rev. Dominic Tse, senior pastor at North York Christian Community Church, told MPs that many Hong Kongers he knows would rather migrate to Canada than to Britain, based on existing ties and Canada’s reputation. He urged Canada to liberally grant work permits to Hong Kongers, giving them a chance to establish residency here. “Many Hong Kong people have either relatives or friends or classmates in Canada, and if they have a choice they actually would rather go to Canada than the U.K.”

Last November, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced a three-year open work permit for recent Hong Kong graduates or those with a history of work experience in areas Canada might value, as well as a new pathway to permanent-resident status for Hong Kongers who end up coming here.

Source: Canada urged to create dedicated asylum pathway for Hong Kongers fleeing political persecution

The New Saudi Diaspora Why MBS Should Worry About Asylum Seekers

Interesting article and of course, we have our examples (e.g., Ensaf Haidar, wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi):

At first glance, it may not seem as though Saudi university students, disgruntled princes, Islamists, and teenage girls have much in common. But members of all these groups are leaving Saudi Arabia and seeking asylum in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Their numbers may be modest compared with those of the refugees who have fled Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria in the past two decades, but these asylum seekers are a political problem for the kingdom—one that its supposedly modernizing young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), can no longer ignore.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 815 Saudi citizens applied for asylum in 2017, a 318 percent increase from 2012. And that’s not counting the unofficial asylum seekers—those living abroad in a state of self-exile, delaying their return to the country for fear of repression. The murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi was one of them.

This new, outspoken Saudi diaspora poses several problems for the kingdom. For one, Saudi Arabia spends millions of dollars on scholarships in order to lessen its dependency on foreign labor; it cannot then afford to lose its highly educated young citizens to exile abroad. The diaspora is also creating an image issue: behind every asylum seeker is a story of injustice and repression that punctures the official narrative about the new, modern Saudi Arabia, flush with economic opportunity. For this reason among others, asylum seekers strain Saudi Arabia’s relationships with their host governments, who are all allies and partners of the regime in Riyadh.


MBS has trained particular resources and attention on young Saudis, promoting artistic and entrepreneurial initiatives designed to open the economy and reward youth creativity and talent. He even started an initiative, the Misk Foundation, dedicated to empowering youth to participate in the Saudi economy. But the very demographic MBS courts produces the majority of asylum seekers leaving the country. These newer exiles join the many students who obtained government scholarships to study in Europe and the United States during King Abdullah’s reign from 2005 to 2015 and failed to return to build the “new Saudi Arabia” afterward. By the time MBS had consolidated his power and become the new face of Saudi Arabia in 2017, many of those students were inclined to be skeptical of the crown prince’s promises of creativity, opportunity, and prosperity. They feared repression if they returned to Saudi Arabia—especially if they had taken advantage of freedoms abroad to criticize the regime and expose its shortcomings.

Their fears were well-grounded, as the Saudi regime isn’t hard to provoke. A tweet, a WhatsApp message, or participation in an academic or policy event deemed hostile to the regime is all it might take to wind up on a suspect list in MBS’ Saudi Arabia. The regime maintains tight control over its citizens abroad, watching their every move with developed surveillance technology. The scandal of pervasive surveillance was exposed after the Khashoggi murder, when it became public knowledge that the regime had hacked the phone of a young activist, Omar al-Zahrani, in Canada and recorded his communication with the slain journalist.

Young, educated asylum seekers undermine Saudi propaganda about the new opportunities on offer in the kingdom. And exiled princes challenge the myth of solidarity and cohesion in the royal family. The latter image has eroded since the purge of November 2017, when MBS detained high-ranking princes, including Alwaleed bin Talal and Mutaib bin Abdullah, at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. The flight of a handful of princes who have taken up residence in Europe underlines the fact that under the new crown prince, the regime has changed its strategy from buying off problematic princes to threatening them with humiliating detention.

Young, educated asylum seekers undermine Saudi propaganda about the new opportunities on offer in the kingdom.

Prince Khalid bin Farhan al-Saud is one example of a dissident prince who has eroded the regime’s power from afar. From exile in Germany, Prince Khalid announced his defection in 2013 and started a media campaign to undermine MBS. In interviews with the BBC and other news organizations that the regime considers hostile, Prince Khalid accused the royal family of hypocrisy for enjoying prohibited pleasures such as drinking alcohol and partying while denying them to ordinary citizens, and he characterized King Salman as a “Machiavellian monarch.” After the Khashoggi murder, Prince Khalid announced that he had escaped from a kidnapping attempt in Germany, allegedly ordered by the crown prince.

Exiled princes tend not to come from the core House of Saud lineage that has ruled the kingdom since 1933. But in a family dynasty in which the king is supposed to be primus inter pares, the first among equals, even the defection of a minor prince fractures the foundation of dynastic rule. Now that it is clear that MBS is willing to punish, kidnap, and humiliate defectors, exile has become the only solution for disgruntled princes. Prince Khalid was lucky. Other princes, such as Saif al-Islam al-Saud and Sultan ibn Turki al-Saud, were kidnapped from Europe and returned to Saudi Arabia and have not been seen since.

The newest emerging category of Saudi exiles are the so-called runaway girls. More than 1,000 girls between the ages of 18 and 25 have left Saudi Arabia under MBS, fleeing the strict control—and in some cases, physical and sexual abuse—their guardians impose on them. Their difficult journeys risk bringing even more restrictions and punishments upon them if they are forced to go back to Saudi Arabia.

A recent high-profile case has drawn international attention to the runaway girls. On January 5, 2019, 18-year-old Rahaf al-Qunun was detained at the Bangkok airport while on her way to seek asylum in Australia. Qunun spent several days in a hotel room at the airport before Canada granted her asylum. Without the support of many Saudi and non-Saudi activists, she might have shared the fate of other, less fortunate runaway girls: repatriation to the kingdom against her will. The regime now acknowledges this problem to the extent that it allowed the airing of debates on the issue in state-sponsored media after Qunun fled the country. Public discussion of the problem may imply that the government is starting to take it seriously; it may also be a way for the government to deflect the crisis and shift the blame to the girls’ parents or guardians.


Saudi exiles are extremely diverse in their political orientations but united in their grievances against the kingdom under MBS: restricted speech, corruption, the marginalization of women and minorities, and abuses of human rights. The latter concern dominated an opposition conference, hosted by the new forum Diwan London, in December 2018. Among the participants were the Washington-based activist Hala al-Dosari, now Jamal Khashoggi fellow at The Washington Post; the feminist activists Amani al-Ahmadi and Amani al-Issa; the newly exiled Islamists Sultan al-Abdali, Muhammad al-Omari, Ahmad bin Rashid al-Said, and Mohammed al-Qahtani; and the Shiite activist Fuad Ibrahim. They were joined by exiles who had fled the kingdom in the 1990s, such as the physics professor Muhammad al-Massari. All presented their visions for a different Saudi Arabia. Some advocated practical measures to stop repression and detentions; others called for the overthrow of the regime.

The regime’s worst nightmare is a critical mass of dissidents abroad—especially high-profile, articulate ones.

So far, neither Saudi Arabia nor the host governments have taken asylum seekers seriously as a political force. But as their numbers grow and they begin to form a united front, these exiles will become an increasing embarrassment to the regime and its allies. Many are now regular commentators for the global news media, analyzing Saudi affairs in ways that are bound to shift public opinion against the regime. For example, the detained Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul has a brother, Walid, in the United States and a sister, Alya, in Belgium, both of whom campaign for her release and regularly inform the news media about the abuse and torture to which she is subjected. Vigorous reporting by human rights organizations, UN agencies, and the global news media makes it harder for host countries to deny these Saudis asylum.

In the past, Saudi Arabia depended on its allies to deport its exiles. It considers granting them asylum an act of betrayal. Take Canada, for example, whose diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia suffered owing to its criticisms of the regime’s human rights abuses and its hosting of outspoken exiles such as Ensaf Haidar, the wife of Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and several years in prison for setting up a liberal Internet forum. Zahrani is also in Canada, together with almost 200 other young asylum seekers. The regime fears that exiles who gain asylum will encourage others to flee. Its worst nightmare is a critical mass of dissidents abroad—especially high-profile, articulate ones. Khashoggi’s murder attests to the policy of zero tolerance for such critical voices abroad: they are treated not as nuisances but as national security threats. The more exiles arrive in the lands of the crown prince’s best allies and supporters, the more Riyadh will pressure the host governments to play down their numbers and deny them refuge.

Even after the global outrage following the murder of Khashoggi, Saudi repression remains fierce, and MBS continues to make enemies. He will not be able to buy off, intimidate, or eliminate all of them, and the diaspora will continue to grow. But he may try to stem the exodus, for example, by banning activists and dissidents from travel—keeping his friends close and his enemies closer.

Source: The New Saudi Diaspora

Le Canada ouvre ses portes au mouvement Gülen

Of note. Not without potential longer-term implications:

Il y a maintenant plus de 1000 personnes [ayant des liens avec le mouvement Gülen] au Canada. Les gens sont venus de Turquie, mais aussi d’ailleurs dans le monde », a confirmé à La Presse Halil, de l’Institut du dialogue interculturel de Toronto, organisation liée au mouvement Gülen. Pour des raisons de sécurité, il nous a demandé de taire son nom de famille.

Les statistiques de la Commission de l’immigration et du statut de réfugié (CISR) confirment ses dires. Si, avant 2016, le Canada accordait en moyenne l’asile à moins de 500 personnes originaires de Turquie par année, leur nombre a bondi depuis le coup d’État raté de 2016.

En 2017, sur quelque 13 500 demandes d’asile qui ont été accueillies favorablement par le Canada, 1247 ont été accordées à des individus fuyant la Turquie. Ce chiffre a grimpé à 1407 en 2018 et atteignait 852 au cours des premiers mois de l’année 2019.

La Fondation Horizon, mise sur pied par des supporteurs du mouvement Gülen, vient en aide aux nouveaux réfugiés issus de la confrérie musulmane.

M. Salimoglu, qui a des liens avec le mouvement Gülen depuis les années 80, a lui-même obtenu l’asile en 2017 (voir l’onglet suivant). « À Montréal, il y a de 30 à 40 familles qui sont venues depuis le coup d’État. Il y a plus de gens en Ontario, notamment à Toronto et à Kitchener », précise-t-il.

La Turquie au premier rang

Au cours des trois dernières années, la Turquie est ainsi passée au premier rang pour le nombre de demandeurs d’asile qui obtiennent le statut de réfugié au Canada, se hissant devant l’Afghanistan et la Syrie.

Actuellement, les personnes ayant des liens avec le mouvement Gülen qui se présentent devant la CISR font l’objet d’une procédure accélérée. En vertu de cette procédure, les commissaires évaluent les demandes d’asile à partir de dossiers écrits et n’ont pas nécessairement à convoquer les demandeurs en audience, apprend-on dans les documents de la Commission de l’immigration et du statut de réfugié (CISR). Les Syriens, les Irakiens, les Afghans, les Coptes d’Égypte, les opposants politiques du Venezuela et du Soudan, notamment, sont aussi visés par cette procédure rapide.

Quand on l’interroge sur les raisons ayant mené à cette décision, la CISR se borne à fournir un lien internet décrivant la procédure accélérée, mais n’explique pas pourquoi la confrérie musulmane a été mise sur la liste. Au bureau du ministre de l’Immigration, même discrétion. On renvoie les journalistes aux communications de la CISR.

Interrogé par La Presse, l’ambassadeur de Turquie à Ottawa, Kerim Uras, estime que le Canada fait fausse route.

« Le mouvement Gülen est un mouvement très organisé qui sait utiliser les failles du système. La politique canadienne est malavisée. Un jour, le Canada pourrait la regretter. »

– Kerim Uras, ambassadeur de Turquie à Ottawa

Un mouvement décimé

Depuis le coup raté qui a eu lieu dans la nuit du 15 au 16 juillet en Turquie, le mouvement Gülen est l’ennemi juré du président Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Ce grand réseau, qui comptait au début de la décennie près de 2 millions de membres actifs et 10 millions de sympathisants en Turquie, est disséminé à travers le monde.

Selon les experts, le mouvement Gülen peut être comparé à une franc-maçonnerie musulmane, très présente dans le milieu de l’éducation, des affaires et des médias. Pendant plus d’une décennie, ce réseau tentaculaire qui disposait de nombreux médias, d’institutions bancaires, de milliers d’écoles et de représentants à l’étranger était un allié du gouvernement islamo-conservateur de M. Erdoğan, mais les choses se sont gâtées en 2013.

Soupçonnés d’avoir fomenté le putsch contre le gouvernement turc, au cours duquel le parlement d’Ankara et le palais présidentiel ont été attaqués, des militaires associés au mouvement Gülen ont été arrêtés au lendemain du coup raté et accusés de terrorisme par la justice turque. Fethullah Gülen, le prédicateur et leader spirituel du mouvement, a affirmé à partir de la Pennsylvanie, où il vit en exil depuis 20 ans, que ses sympathisants n’avaient rien à voir avec le coup d’État.

Auteur d’un livre sur le mouvement Gülen et experte des études islamiques de l’Université de Chester en Grande-Bretagne, Caroline Tee ne partage pas le point de vue du leader musulman. « Il est pas mal clair, à partir des preuves journalistiques mises de l’avant en Turquie, que des sympathisants du mouvement Gülen ont participé au coup d’État », dit-elle.

Trois ans après les événements, il reste cependant beaucoup de zones d’ombre entourant l’événement, ajoute-t-elle. « C’est vraiment étrange qu’il y ait aussi peu d’informations rendues publiques sur les résultats des enquêtes policières », dit Mme Tee.

Rafles massives

Ces zones d’ombre n’ont cependant pas empêché le gouvernement Erdoğan d’arrêter des dizaines de milliers de citoyens – militaires, professeurs, journalistes, gens d’affaires – dans les semaines et les mois qui ont suivi le putsch avorté. Selon Human Rights Watch, plus de 77 000 personnes ont été arrêtées en lien avec le coup d’État de 2016. De ce nombre, plus de 45 000 l’ont été pour leur lien avec le mouvement Gülen, rebaptisé FETO par le gouvernement, soit l’« organisation terroriste de Fethullah ».

Au cours des trois dernières années, les organisations Human Rights Watch et Amnistie internationale ont dénoncé maintes fois l’aspect arbitraire des arrestations massives et des accusations de terrorisme qui touchent les membres du mouvement Gülen, mais aussi des Kurdes, des opposants politiques et des journalistes. « Il est normal que le gouvernement turc arrête et traduise en justice les organisateurs de la tentative de coup d’État qui a fait beaucoup de morts et de blessés dans la population civile, mais comment peut-on accuser de terrorisme des dizaines de milliers de personnes ? », a dit à La Presse Emma Sinclair-Webb, directrice de HRW en Turquie.

Fuyant cette répression tous azimuts de l’État, des dizaines de milliers de sympathisants du mouvement Gülen ont fui le pays. Le Canada n’est pas le seul pays à les accueillir. La France, l’Allemagne, les Pays-Bas, le Royaume-Uni ont notamment ouvert leurs portes aux membres de la confrérie musulmane.

Réfugiés ou menaces ?

Professeur d’économie à Harvard connu pour son blogue sur la politique turque, Dani Rodrik est convaincu que la majorité des membres du mouvement Gülen qui trouvent refuge à l’étranger ont de bonnes raisons de le faire. « Ça ne fait aucun doute : les gülenistes sont persécutés par le gouvernement turc, qu’ils aient pris part ou non à certaines des activités illégales du réseau. Je crois que la majorité des gülenistes sont des citoyens honnêtes qui n’avaient rien à voir avec les activités clandestines de certains membres du mouvement », dit M. Rodrik.

Selon l’expert de Harvard, les gouvernements qui accueillent des gülenistes doivent rester vigilants puisque les visées politiques du groupe restent obscures. « Je m’assurerais que mes services secrets gardent un oeil sur les activités des gülenistes. Sans l’ombre d’un doute », fait valoir le professeur.


Une présence montréalaise

Le mouvement Gülen est présent à Montréal depuis plus d’une décennie et organise fréquemment des événements publics. Au début de la décennie, l’Institut du dialogue interculturel, lié au mouvement, organisait chaque année des soupers auxquels étaient conviés politiciens, professeurs d’université, journalistes et représentants des forces de l’ordre. Des membres des cercles de pouvoir québécois ont aussi participé à des voyages en Turquie financés par le mouvement Gülen.

Depuis le coup d’État, le mouvement s’est fait beaucoup plus discret, mais n’a pas cessé ses activités. En public, le mouvement prône la tolérance, le service à la communauté et le dialogue interreligieux, mais dans ses rangs, il impose un mode de vie très strict à ses membres – pas d’alcool, pas de tabac, pas de sexe avant le mariage.

« En Turquie, les gens sont très sceptiques à l’égard de ce groupe entouré de secret, dit Caroline Tee, professeure à l’Université de Chester, qui a passé de longues années à étudier ce mouvement. Par contre, en Occident, le mouvement est bien reçu. Les gens veulent croire que c’est un mouvement musulman modéré. »

Source: Le Canada ouvre ses portes au mouvement Gülen

Trump’s ‘blatantly illegal’ immigration rules end asylum protections

One of the better summaries:

The Trump administration has announced new immigration rules ending asylum protections for almost all migrants who arrive at the US-Mexico border, in violation of both US and international law.

According to the new rules, any asylum seekers who pass through another country before arriving at the southern border – including children traveling on their own – will not be eligible for asylum if they failed to apply first in their country of transit. They would only be eligible for US asylum if their application was turned down elsewhere.

The change would affect the vast majority of migrants arriving through Mexico. Most of those currently come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, but an increasing number are from Haiti, Cuba and countries further afield in Africa and Asia.

The new rules were placed on the federal register on Monday and due to take effect on Tuesday, though they will be immediately challenged in court for contraventions of the US refugee act and the UN refugee convention guaranteeing the right to seek asylum to those fleeing persecution from around the world.

Source: Trump’s ‘blatantly illegal’ immigration rules end asylum protections

Trump’s tariff threat to Mexico is based on all the wrong data

Good overview of the data, and making the case that it is more a capacity issue of the asylum system (as in Canada):

For years Americans have looked at how many people border patrol agents catch as an indicator of undocumented immigration.

Since October, those numbers—known officially as “apprehensions”—have more than doubled compared to the same period the previous year to nearly 600,000 people. The surge prompted US president Donald Trump to threaten Mexico with import tariffs if authorities in that country don’t intercept more immigrants before they cross the Rio Grande.

“This sustained influx of illegal aliens has profound consequences on every aspect of our national life—overwhelming our schools, overcrowding our hospitals, draining our welfare system, and causing untold amounts of crime,” he said in a statement last week announcing the tariff strategy.

The strategy is questionable, both legally and in practice. And so is Trump’s math.

He is missing some pretty crucial figures, starting with the number of undocumented immigrants who actually settle and live in the United States. For years, that population has been shrinking. He also needs to subtract asylum seekers, who account for a large share of the intercepted immigrants. Under US and international law, they have a right to legally stay in the United States until a judge rules on their case, regardless of whether they entered the country illegally.

We took a historic dive into immigration data and found why Trump’s narrative doesn’t add up. Here are the holes, in seven charts:

The long view

The number of border crossers is rising, but remains historically low. The reason for this is the collapse in the number of Mexicans trying to sneak into the United States. Better opportunities and lower fertility rates in Mexico cut down the number of people desperate to leave. On the US side, the Great Recession dried up jobs, and increased border security made it harder to get in.

It would take many more Central American caravans for the the number of border apprehensions to reach the historic high of nearly 1.7 million from the 1980s.

Other than Mexican

These days, it is people from other countries who are shaping border traffic. They include Central Americans, who now account for well over half of apprehensions along the border. That’s partly because US immigration authorities are taking more Central Americans into custody, but mostly because they are arresting fewer Mexicans.

Most of these migrants are fleeing violence and poverty in the Northern Triangle, the trio of countries that include Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

The number of apprehended immigrants from that region is up, but that doesn’t mean illegal immigration is rising.  Trump is leaving out a key distinction between apprehensions in the past and today. What they reflect is changing.

Back when Mexican economic migrants were the most common type of border crosser, apprehensions acted as a proxy for undocumented immigration—if not a very good one. At that time, it was much easier to evade the Border Patrol. So, observers looked at the number of people being caught for clues on how many people overall were making the trip north.

These days border patrol agents are far more effective at intercepting immigrants. In fact, they don’t even have to chase after them. Many Central Americans actually turn themselves in to request asylum.

The profile of “apprehended” immigrants has also changed. More than half of the Central Americans intercepted at the border since last October were families traveling with children, not men looking for work as in the past.

Many among this new group have pending asylum cases. They shouldn’t be considered undocumented unless a judge decides they’re not eligible to stay permanently. Subtract them from the number of apprehensions, and the total looks much smaller.

Many are deported

The crisis at the border is not really a numbers crisis. It’s a bureaucratic emergency because the United States has failed to adapt to the shift in immigration flows from Mexican men seeking work to Central Americans seeking asylum.

Unlike Mexican men, whom it could quickly deport, it is obligated by law to give those who fear going back to their country a day in court. It’s a much longer, back-office-heavy process that immigration authorities are ill-equipped to do. For years, they’ve directed much of their funding towards border agents and fences. That’s why they’re struggling now, even though the number of immigrants is significantly smaller than what they handled in the past.

Even taking into account that mismatch, the US deports thousands of immigrants every year.

That’s another group of people that should be removed from Trump’s tally of undocumented immigrants.

Border crossers vs. residents

Even after those adjustments, apprehensions are not the best statistic to look at if what’s worrying Trump are undocumented immigrants. (Those who are caught and have no permission to be in the United States will be deported. As we said above, asylum seekers are allowed to stay.)

He should instead focus on people who live in the United States without permission. That number has come down from a pre-Great Recession peak of more than 12 million to less than 11 million in 2016, according to analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Again, the drop in the number of Mexican immigrants coming to the United States is partly behind that math. In addition, many immigrants are leaving, whether through deportation or on their own. Add to that the number of undocumented residents who die and those who get papers to legally live in the county, and you get more immigrant residents exiting the undocumented column than entering it.

Data from the Center for Migration Studies show that’s been the case in recent years:

Most don’t enter illegally

Of the undocumented population living in the United States, not all entered illegally. In recent years, more than half of the people settling in the country without permission entered on a visa and overstayed it. “It’s hard to walk here from India,” said Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at Pew.

While many asylum seekers show up in the apprehension figures, visa overstayers don’t at all. That’s another reason why the number of people border patrol agents catch shouldn’t drive the immigration debate.

Does the border crisis change the math?

Immigration hawks fear that the asylum seekers showing up at the border will eventually become undocumented immigrants. US authorities have been releasing many of the new arrivals because there’s not enough detention space. And there are rules that limit how long officials can keep immigrant children in custody.

Immigration statistics lag, so we won’t know for a while how many of those people end up living in the United States illegally. Robert Warren, a senior visiting fellow at the Center for Migration Studies, doesn’t believe they’ll make much of a difference given recent trends. The potential impact of border crossers has shrunk along with their share of the undocumented population.

A look at border crossers who were caught and those who settled in the United States sheds some light on what we might see. The number of immigrants requesting asylum started to swell a few years before Trump took office, and so did the number of apprehensions. The number of undocumented immigrant residents who entered the country illegally went up too, but remained well below apprehensions.

That’s not to say Trump should discard apprehension statistics. He just needs to work on the takeaway. Apprehensions don’t equal undocumented immigrants. What they’re showing these days is that the asylum system is clogged up. That’s keeping the United States from protecting Central Americans at risk, and encouraging more of them to come.

“It is a very serious situation when you have so many families and children coming up to apply for asylum,” Warren said. “The thing that might be getting missed is we haven’t set up our capacity to handle that situation.”

Source: Trump’s tariff threat to Mexico is based on all the wrong data

Des demandeurs d’asile revendiquent l’accès aux services de garde subventionnés

I understand the logic as labour market permits, school attendance and healthcare already available to claimants. However, given shortage of childcare spaces, expect some political pushback.

Will be interesting to see how Commission responds:

Dans une démarche inusitée, des demandeurs d’asile portent plainte pour discrimination devant la Commission québécoise des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse, parce qu’ils n’ont pas accès aux services de garde subventionnés, a appris La Presse.

Cette exclusion oblige plusieurs d’entre eux à refuser un emploi et les contraint à vivre de l’aide sociale, ce qui retarde leur processus d’intégration.

Parallèlement, dans une lettre ouverte, un comité qui regroupe une quarantaine de demandeurs d’asile appelle le gouvernement à ouvrir les garderies subventionnées aux personnes en attente de statut.

Une réglementation laissant place à interprétation a longtemps permis aux demandeurs d’asile d’inscrire leurs enfants dans un CPE. Dans une directive envoyée en avril dernier, le ministère de la Famille a clairement fermé cette brèche.

Les demandeurs d’asile n’ont pas non plus accès aux remboursements anticipés du crédit d’impôt qui aident les familles à faible revenu à assumer les frais des garderies privées. Concrètement, cela exclut des centaines d’enfants nouvellement arrivés au Québec du réseau des garderies.

Cette politique «nous empêche d’accéder à la francisation et à l’emploi, nous isole avec nos enfants de la société qu’on voudrait activement intégrer et affecte surtout les femmes demandeuses d’asile», déplore le comité des demandeurs d’asile dans sa lettre ouverte, qui réclame l’accès aux CPE et aux versements anticipés du crédit d’impôt pour frais de garde.

Effets dévastateurs

La politique d’exclusion a un effet «dévastateur» sur les familles, dénoncent les demandeurs d’asile.

C’est ainsi qu’une des plaignantes, Blessing, Nigériane de 30 ans arrivée au Québec en avril dernier, a dû refuser deux offres d’emploi, l’une dans une usine de matériel électrique, l’autre dans un centre d’appels, parce qu’elle n’avait pas les moyens de payer une garderie privée pour son enfant de 4 ans.

«Je me sens coincée, impuissante et déprimée», confie la demandeuse d’asile, qui préfère taire son nom de famille et qui veut gagner sa vie en attendant que la Commission de l’immigration et du statut de réfugié (CISR) statue sur son sort – ce qui peut prendre jusqu’à 18 mois.

Au lieu de ça, déplore-t-elle, elle est dépendante de l’aide sociale.

Un autre plaignant, Vladimyr Mathieu, arrivé d’Haïti en juin 2017, vit une situation particulière. Son fils né à Montréal n’a pas accès au service de garde. Pourtant, il est citoyen canadien. Sa fille aînée, née en Haïti, a été admise en garderie avant la directive d’avril dernier, et continue à profiter de son droit acquis – pourtant, elle n’est pas citoyenne. La garderie qu’elle fréquente est disposée à accueillir son petit frère, mais Québec refuse de contribuer aux frais. La demande d’inscription a donc été rejetée.

Pour que Valdimyr et sa femme, qui occupent tous deux un emploi, puissent continuer à travailler, ils se sont résolus à faire garder leur plus jeune enfant, âgé de 1 an, par un voisin, une situation que les deux demandeurs d’asile jugent insatisfaisante.

«Je ne comprends pas, le système nous demande de travailler, nous recevons un permis de travail, mais nous n’avons pas accès aux garderies; c’est comme si on nous disait de rester sur l’aide sociale pour prendre soin de nos enfants», déplore Valdimyr Mathieu.

Au total, six demandeurs d’asile vivant des situations semblables, à un moment où les délais de traitement des dossiers s’allongent, ont demandé à la Commission des droits de la personne d’examiner leur plainte.

L’exclusion des services de garde est discriminatoire, tout particulièrement pour les femmes, qu’il s’agisse de mères seules ou de conjointes étant les plus susceptibles de rester à la maison pour prendre soin des enfants, soutient le comité de demandeurs d’asile dans sa lettre ouverte.

«Les travailleurs temporaires ont bien accès aux garderies, alors que les demandeurs d’asile, qui disposent d’un permis de travail, en sont exclus, je ne comprends pas la logique de cette politique», s’étonne l’une des signataires de la lettre ouverte, l’avocate Claude-Catherine Lemoine, selon qui ce traitement à géométrie variable n’a pas de raison d’être et entraîne à moyen terme des coûts sociaux importants.

«C’est complètement contre-productif, ça pénalise non seulement les familles, mais aussi la société québécoise, parce que ça retarde l’apprentissage du français et l’intégration au marché du travail», croit Stephan Reichhold, de la Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes.

«En barrant l’accès aux CPE aux demandeurs d’asile, on se tire simplement dans le pied», résume-t-il.

Écoles, mais pas les garderies

Depuis l’adoption du projet de loi 144, à la fin de 2017, tous les enfants, incluant ceux des demandeurs d’asile, ont accès au système scolaire. «Si on veut être cohérent, on devrait étendre ça aux garderies», plaide Geneviève Binette, du Comité d’aide aux réfugiés.

D’autant plus que ce n’est pas par manque de places que les garderies refoulent les enfants de demandeurs d’asile, mais à cause d’une politique gouvernementale.

La quarantaine de demandeurs d’asile qui ont formé le comité demandant l’accès aux services de garde ont dû surmonter des résistances intérieures, souligne Rachel Shugart, du Collectif Bienvenue, qui vient en aide aux nouveaux arrivants.

Membre, à titre personnel, du comité formé par les demandeurs d’asile, Rachel Shugart souligne que plusieurs d’entre eux viennent de pays qui ne respectent pas les droits. La démarche était «effrayante pour eux, ils se sentent inquiets, nerveux», selon Rachel Shugart.

Mais ces nouveaux venus en attente de statut sont aussi déterminés à accéder aussi vite que possible à l’autonomie financière et à ne plus dépendre de l’aide de l’État.

Source: Des demandeurs d’asile revendiquent l’accès aux services de garde subventionnés

Canada welcomes refugees, but shuts the door on asylum seekers: Vic Satzewich

A reminder to those critical from the right of the Liberal government’s approach of the alternative critique from the left, suggesting that the Liberals remain in the centre:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen sound a lot like former Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney these days when it comes to immigration. Last Friday the Prime Minister said, “Protecting Canadians’ confidence in the integrity of our system allows us to continue to be open, and that’s exactly what I plan to continue to do.” Over the weekend, both the Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister counselled Haitians thinking about crossing the U.S. border into Canada to stay where they are and make their refugee claim in the United States. Many of Mr. Kenney’s public comments about changes to the immigration system introduced under his watch were also peppered with references to the need to maintain the integrity of, and public confidence in, the immigration system.

Maintaining the “integrity of the immigration system” is in part the shared code language for how our governments (Conservative or Liberal) think about asylum seekers. Canada may love refugees like Syrians who are selected and screened abroad before they set foot in the country, but the same cannot be said about asylum seekers who wash up on our shores in boats, or who walk across our border with the U.S.

Canada’s approach to asylum seekers pokes holes in the image of the country as inherently welcoming to immigrants and refugees. The fear and panic Canadians expressed about the arrival of 174 Sikhs off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1987, the arrival of “ghost ships” from Fujian, China in 1999, and 492 Tamils aboard the MV Sun Sea in 2010, bear little resemblance to Mr. Trudeau’s tweet in January where he told the world that, “To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you.” Indeed, a 2015 Environics poll found that nearly half of Canadians believe that refugees coming to Canada do not have a legitimate claim.

Though the policy climate in the United States toward immigrants and refugees is changing for the worse, I am not optimistic that the Liberals will do much to make it easier for Haitians and others to make a refugee claim in Canada.

The immigration department is obsessed – and this is not too strong a word – with preventing the arrival in Canada of “jumpers” (their shorthand for “queue jumpers.”) One of the responsibilities of a visa officer is to try to predict whether a person who applies for a visitor visa will make an asylum claim after they arrive. If they think a person might “jump,” they can refuse to issue a visa. Even though making an asylum claim in Canada is not illegal, Canadian authorities dislike it when individuals use the visitor visa system to get to Canada to make a refugee claim.

Nor am I optimistic that the Liberals will rescind the Safe Third Country Agreement. Doing so would be a slap in the face to American authorities because it would send a very clear message that Canada does not have confidence that U.S. authorities can deal fairly with asylum claims. Some might say that with the current chaos in the White House, the U.S. will not notice, but at a time when there are heightened tensions about immigration in that country, you bet they will. I also doubt whether the Liberals are going to want to muddy the waters as we renegotiate NAFTA.

Nor is the government likely to close the “loophole” in the Safe Third Country Agreement that allows individuals to make an asylum claim if they cross into Canada outside of an official port of entry. To do so would involve an unprecedented militarization of the Canadian border and most Canadians are not ready to see the spectacle of the RCMP or CBSA officials physically preventing asylum seekers from crossing into Canada. We would look a lot like Hungary and its approach to preventing the arrival of asylum seekers.

The government of Canada has benefited more from the Safe Third Country Agreement than the United States. The two countries entered into the agreement for different reasons. For the U.S., it was part of a post-9/11 effort to enhance security. For Canada, it was an effort to stop asylum seekers from entering from the United States. One study found that before the Safe Third Country Agreement was put into effect, between 8,000 and 13,000 refugee claimants entered Canada annually from the United States. During the same period (1995-2001), only about 200 refugee claimants entered the United States from Canada.

The sad reality is that Canada’s welcoming approach to immigrants and refugees comes at the expense of asylum seekers.

Source: Canada welcomes refugees, but shuts the door on asylum seekers – The Globe and Mail

Feds reviewing inland refugee system, under pressure to scrap ‘safe countries’ list

Another issue to watch in terms of how the Liberal government finds a balance between maintaining the integrity of refugee determination and rights of refugee claimants:

The Liberal government is re-evaluating the way it treats refugee claimants who ask for protection after arriving in Canada, but won’t say whether it will scrap some of the widely criticized restrictions on some refugee claimants brought in by the previous government.

Government officials met with refugee advocacy groups and researchers July 14 to gather suggestions on what to do with Canada’s asylum system, which is used to process applications for refugee status by people who have already arrived in the country. People brought in from refugee camps abroad are processed in a different way. In 2014-15, the tribunal that decides on refugee claims in Canada was referred 13,500 claims, and the next year that creeped up to 16,500.

The government’s controversial Designated Countries of Origin (DCO) list was one of the key topics of the July 14 meeting, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

The DCO or “safe countries” list was created by the previous Conservative government, and includes countries that, according to the government, do not usually produce legitimate refugees. The list—which currently includes 42 countries—was designed to “ensure that people in need get protection fast, while those with unfounded claims are sent home quickly through expedited processing,” says the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada website.

However, an internal IRCC audit released this summer found that DCO claims had not been processed faster than those from other countries, leading NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.) to question what the point of the system was.

The Liberals promised during the election campaign to set up an “expert human rights panel” to determine which countries should fall on the DCO list. Since the Liberals came to power, the government has said little about how it will fulfill this promise, and IRCC and the office of Immigration Minister John McCallum (Markham-Thornhill, Ont.) declined to provide details when asked.

The promise of an expert panel wasn’t good enough to satisfy critics of the DCO list, such as the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) or Canadian Council for Refugees. CARL wrote in a brief submitted to the government in July that a human rights panel “cannot cure what is, at root, a discriminatory regime, introduced into the legislation for discriminatory purposes,” a sentiment Ms. Dench said was echoed by many in the July 14 consultation.

“There was a very clear message to the government from everybody that the designated-country-of-origin policy was not useful, was not credible, was not serving any purpose and was contrary to the [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms],” she said.

 Critics say the DCO system kneecaps claimants from listed countries because they’re rushed through the process. They also say so-called safe countries may in fact be quite dangerous, at least to some persecuted groups or in some areas.

When asked a series of questions about the DCO system and the establishment of the expert panel, IRCC spokesperson Remi Lariviere wrote in an emailed statement that the government was considering how to make Canada’s asylum system “more fair and timely,” in part as a response to this summer’s consultations on the immigration system and to the IRCC internal audit, which identified several concerns with the system’s fairness and efficiency.

The Liberal party had also promised on the campaign trail to provide a right for claimants from DCO countries to appeal decisions by the Immigration and Refugee Board, an arm’s-length tribunal, a right they had been denied under the system set up by the Conservatives. The Liberal government has already fulfilled that promise by dropping a legal challenge initiated under the previous government to a Federal Court ruling last year, which held that the ban on appeals by DCO claimants was unconstitutional.

Department finds ‘need to reform’ system

The previous Conservative government overhauled the inland refugee system in 2012, after a rising number of refugee claims, few of which were accepted and many of which stemmed from countries the government of the day perceived to be generally safe, such as Mexico and Hungary. Canada had also recently seen two ships arrive on its shores with dozens of migrants from Sri Lanka who claimed asylum.

The IRCC conducted an audit of its asylum system at the instruction of the Treasury Board, which had committed to a review of the program three years after major reforms by the Conservative government. The audit covered the period from December 2012 to December 2014. In addition to a number of positive findings about the way the asylum system was operating, it identified a series of shortcomings in Canada’s asylum system, including that DCO claimants were not processed faster than non-DCO claimants.

The audit also found “a need to reform the in-Canada asylum system due to the increasing number of claims, growing backlogs/inventories, and lengthy processing times,” and that “failed claimants are not being removed in a timely manner.”

Source: The Hill Times