Paddington, go home: Home Office staff pin up faked deportation notices

Witty but inappropriate behaviour by public servants:

Over the past week mocked up immigration enforcement notices have begun to appear on internal Home Office staff noticeboards, featuring photographs of Paddington Bear, stating that he is wanted so he can be placed on a relocation flight to Rwanda.

Elsewhere, staff have noticed a rash of Refugees Welcome stickers, affixed to Home Office printers and pieces of furniture in departmental buildings around the country.

The organiser of the Our Home Office protest group, bringing together staff opposed to Rwanda deportations, said unease about the proposed removals has galvanised employees from all over the government department to take subversive action.

“It’s still a small, low-level campaign, but it’s growing and is already networked in offices throughout the country,” the group’s founder said, asking not to be named in order to protect his job at the department. “The announcement of the Rwanda transportation plan was really a significant moment for a lot of staff members who were quite shocked by how barbaric a proposal it is, particularly the way that it seems to be against the refugee convention and the principles that we are trying to uphold of giving people fair treatment.”

More rolls of Refugees Welcome stickers have been posted out in the past few days to members of staff who have got in touch through a protest group website, the organiser said. “No one expects working in the Home Office to be easy but this has pushed a lot of people over the edge,” the employee said.

Refugees Welcome sticker
Refugees Welcome stickers have begun to appear in Home Office buildings. Photograph: Twitter

Source: Paddington, go home: Home Office staff pin up faked deportation notices

Canada to dramatically raise fees for deportees who return to Canada

Of note:

The federal government is planning to drastically raise the removal fees levied against deportees in order to recover the full costs associated with sending inadmissible foreign nationals home.

According to a proposed fee schedule, regardless of the destination, individuals who were removed without being escorted by border agents would be charged $3,250 and those with escorts would need to to fork out $10,900. There would be an extra $1,300 fee for detention.

Currently, Canada Border Services Agency only has two removal rates: $750 for foreign nationals deported to the United States or the French territory of St. Pierre and Miquelon; and $1,500 for those removed to any other countries.

The existing fee scheme has not been updated in more than 25 years. It does not align with the costs, nor does it leverage technology to ensure that outstanding removal costs owed by foreign nationals are recovered before receiving authorization to return to Canada.

“The cost of removal varies substantially regardless of destination of removal, based on factors such as whether or not the foreign national has been detained for removal, and/or has to be escorted by CBSA officers,” said the agency’s spokesperson Mark Stuart.

“The CBSA is considering a potential regulatory amendment proposal that would make a distinction between escorted removals and non-escorted removals because the average enforcement expenditure is higher for escorted removals than it is for unescorted removals.”

Stuart said any proposed changes would likely not come into effect until late in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Costs can only be recovered by the agency or the immigration department when a previously removed person seeks to apply for an authorization to return to Canada.

Canadian immigration and border officials do not work with overseas partners, including foreign governments, to collect the money, nor do they seize the person’s assets in Canada and collect the money from the person’s remaining family members here.

“Records will indicate whether an applicant paid for their airfare themselves, which means they will only be charged the $400 Authorization to Return to Canada processing fee,” said Stuart.

“If there’s no indication that they paid for the airfare themselves, they must provide evidence of that or refund the cost of their removal. No application (for the authorization) can be accepted until such evidence is provided.”

Between 2015 and 2019, Canada recovered removal costs from 164 foreign nationals in the U.S. or St-Pierre and Miquelon and 1,576 from anywhere else, bringing almost $2.5 million into the government’s general coffers.

The proposed fee amendment will include a provision to allow an automatic annual fee adjustment based on Canada’s consumer price index.

“These potential regulatory changes will help protect the integrity of Canada’s immigration enforcement program by ensuring that the CBSA’s removal program remains cost-effective,” the agency said in a consultation notice.

“They would also help offset the government’s immigration- and asylum-related enforcement costs, thereby providing value from the perspective of Canadian taxpayers.”

Source: Canada to dramatically raise fees for deportees who return to Canada

UK races to deport asylum seekers ahead of Brexit

Of note:

Scores of vulnerable asylum seekers, including suspected victims of trafficking, are scheduled to be deported this week as the home secretary Priti Patel ramps up removal operations ahead of Brexit.

Three flights this week, two to Germany and one to France, with possible transfers to Austria, Poland, Spain and Lithuania, are planned amid opposition from campaigners who say they have evidence that cases are being “rushed” through to avoid Patel’s own published policy on identifying trafficking victims.

The development comes days after Patel branded those calling for last week’s deportation flight to Jamaica to be stopped as “do-gooding celebrities”, a label that prompted victims of the Windrush scandal to describe the home secretary as “deeply insulting and patronising”.

Source: UK races to deport asylum seekers ahead of Brexit

Canada has turned back 4,400 asylum seekers in 5 years

Of note. A bit less than the 55,000 or so that crossed the border:

Canada has turned away at least 4,400 asylum seekers at the U.S. border since 2016 — including some who were hoping to find refuge here at the height of the global pandemic — according to newly released government figures.

Nearly half of those trying to enter Canada over that five-year period made the attempt in the year after U.S. President Donald Trump took office, according to figures released in response to a parliamentary request from NDP MP Jenny Kwan.

Under the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which has been in effect since 2004, Canada and the U.S. consider each other to be “safe countries” for refugees and require them to make their claims in the country they arrive in first.

The agreement has long faced criticism and legal challenges from refugee advocacy groups, who say the agreement is an inhumane way to limit the number of people Canada accepts as refugees. They say the U.S. is not a safe country for all refugees and that the dangers they face have increased under the Trump administration.

The federal government is appealing a Federal Court ruling earlier this year that found the STCA infringed Charter rights.

The figures provided to Kwan show there was a spike in the number of asylum seekers turned back at the border after Trump was elected in 2016 and took office in 2017.

In 2016 there were 742 people turned back at the border. That figure jumped to 1,992 in 2017. There were 744 denied entry in 2018 and 663 in 2019.

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 23 this year — a period which captures the height of the first wave of COVID-19 — 259 people were turned back at the border.

‘Even more precarious’

Kwan called that “really disturbing.”

“In the face of a pandemic, things are even more precarious for people who need to get to safety and Canada actually did not hesitate to turn people back,” she said.Kwan said the Trump administration imposed detention and deportation policies that violated international human rights and provoked widespread fear among refugees. By turning away asylum seekers, Canada is “complicit” in the violation of their rights, she said.

Kwan said Canada should immediately suspend the STCA and work to negotiate a new agreement with U.S. president-elect Joe Biden that addresses human rights issues. But she said the “aggressive and intense” detention policies could linger.

“I think even with the Biden administration, that policy may still continue to exist, and even if the Biden administration wants to make changes, it’s not going to happen overnight,” she said.

Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, said the government appealed the Federal Court ruling because it believes there were errors in key findings of fact and law.

She said the decision mistakenly suggests that all asylum claimants who are ineligible under the STCA and turned back to the U.S. are automatically detained as a penalty. She also noted that the U.S. remains a party to the UN Refugee Convention.

Refugee pact ‘fair, compassionate’: Blair spokesperson

“The STCA, which has served Canada well for 16 years, ensures that those whose lives are in danger are able to claim asylum at the very first opportunity in a safe country,” she said.

“We are in continuous discussions with the U.S. government on issues related to our shared border. We believe that the STCA remains a comprehensive vehicle for the fair, compassionate and orderly handling of asylum claims in our two countries.”

As for the spike in numbers in 2017, Power said that 2017-2018 recorded the highest number of globally displaced individuals since the Second World War.

Justin Mohammed, human rights law and policy campaigner for Amnesty International Canada, said a number of factors could have driven that sharp increase, including global patterns and Trump’s policies.

He said Canada should be fulfilling its international obligations under international refugee law at all times — even during a pandemic, when safety concerns are heightened.

Mohammed pointed to exemptions made for students, family reunification and other immigration classes that allow people to arrive in Canada despite travel restrictions.

“Why are refugees being excluded from that? They’re able to quarantine or be required to have a quarantine plan just like anyone else … so why is there not the ability to be able to provide protection?” he said.

Partial picture

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said the 2020 figures represent only a partial picture of the people turned back to the U.S. because of added restrictions after the border closed March 20.

At that time, refugee claimants were denied entry on public health grounds whether they arrived at an official point of entry or at another crossing — such as Roxham Road in Quebec — where the STCA does not normally apply.

Despite assurances the Canadian government says it received from the U.S. that refugee claimants directed back would not be subject to enforcement such as detention or removal, Dench said refugee advocates in Canada know of at least two people who were detained in the U.S. after being directed back.

Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho said the Liberal record on administering the refugee and asylum system was one of “mismanagement, years-long backlogs and failure,” even before the pandemic.

“Conservatives have long been calling on the government to close illegal border crossings and work with their American counterparts to close the longstanding loopholes in the Safe Third Country Agreement so that refugee and asylum seekers have a fair, compassionate and effective pathway to come to Canada,” she said in a statement.

Source: Canada has turned back 4,400 asylum seekers in 5 years

Almost 35,000 people pegged for removal from Canada evade border agency

Overall, pretty devastating report.

One aspect that I found particularly of interest is that the numbers have largely remained the same over the past three years. Unfortunately, the OAG report did not include earlier years in its analysis:

Canada’s border agency has failed to promptly remove most of the people under orders to leave the country, and in tens of thousands of cases it has simply lost track of them, the federal auditor general says.

In a report tabled Wednesday in Parliament, the auditor said the Canada Border Services Agency’s efforts were hampered by poor data quality and case-management flaws, resulting in avoidable delays in thousands of cases.

Problems in information-sharing with immigration officials also slowed things down.

The border agency is responsible for carrying out removal orders to ensure public safety and the integrity of the immigration system.

The report noted the federal government had made significant investments over the last decade to improve the efficiency of the asylum system, including removals.

However, the level of enforceable removal orders — those involving people who have exhausted or waived all legal avenues to stay in Canada — remained largely unchanged, even for priority cases.

As of April 2019, there were about 50,000 people in Canada with enforceable removal orders. Two-thirds of these — 34,700 cases — involved individuals whose whereabouts were unknown. Of these, 2,800 had criminal histories.

Still, the border agency was often not conducting regular follow-ups to try to find them by opening each file at least every three years, or once a year for people with criminal issues.

Data integrity shortcomings limited the agency’s ability to know which removal orders to enforce, the report said.

“Without a reliable inventory of removal orders, the agency could not effectively prioritize removals according to risk and complexity. We also found cases in which the agency was unaware that removal orders had been issued,” it said.

“Many cases we examined were also stalled because officers had done little to overcome impediments like missing travel documents.”

The auditor noted that many countries, mostly in Europe, offer assistance programs that promote the voluntary return of foreign nationals to their countries of origin. Some operate through independent third parties and are not limited to failed asylum claimants, the report said.

“All recognize that voluntary returns are preferred to enforced removals, are more cost-effective, and facilitate rapid departures.”

The government will do a better job of ensuring the integrity of the system, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged at a news briefing Wednesday.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, the cabinet member responsible for the border agency, said the government accepts the auditor’s recommendations to fix the various problems.

In addition to improving its removals strategy, the border agency will enhance the way it tracks and triages cases to ensure priority ones are addressed promptly, Blair said in a statement.

“This includes continuing to implement a data integrity strategy to ensure that it can quickly identify the stages all cases are at so they can move forward in a timely fashion.”

The border agency is taking steps to find foreign nationals whose whereabouts are unknown by reviewing all outstanding cases, prioritizing criminal cases and focusing investigations on the most serious ones, Blair added.

Finally, the agency will develop an “incentive program” to increase voluntary compliance, he said.

The agency’s problems with managing removals date back more than a decade, long before the Liberals took the government reins from the Conservatives.

But Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said it was another example of the Liberal government being unable to ensure a fair, orderly and compassionate immigration system. “We need a government that takes this kind of thing seriously.”

NDP public safety critic Jack Harris said the Liberals must make sure the border agency “has sufficient resources to perform their duties.”

Source: Almost 35,000 people pegged for removal from Canada evade border agency

Reintegration of deportees: The challenge of a Guyanese immigration experience

A receiving country perspective:

What to do about the immigrants who are sent back to their respective home countries due to judicial violations is a new, potentially contentious issue and untenable proposition. There has been an increase in the number of deportees, most from the USA and Canada to the Caribbean over the past few years. In essence, deportees are immigrants who are exiled from their adopted home; some for clear violation of sundry laws, some very serious, while others may be victims of immigration policies that are arbitrarily applied, particularly if the accused is not adequately represented legally to assist with due process. Among the typical reasons for deportation are: overstay, illegal entry and illegal re-entry. These immigrants are subject to the realities of a forced re-migratory experience. Furthermore, their deportation is speciously viewed by observers including locals, as emblematic of failure in the diaspora. The latter perception tends to obliterate any meaningful past achievements of these individuals and exhibits a  lack of understanding of the hardships experienced by some families in the diaspora. For some deportees, their actions that lead to deportation may have been the failure of acculturation into the host society, especially in school. Consequently, they become vulnerable to influences that can be attributed to financial and social constraints encountered in many instances by the structural difficulties facing single parents.

There is a need for deportees to be re-socialized into the local home community, particularly the nations’ cultural value system, customs and practices. Others need to be introduced to a social environment they may hardly know, particularly if they left the home country as children. They also often return to countries where the unemployment rate is relatively high and with no organized system to help them readjust to their new home. In some cases, even their own family members refuse to acknowledge and support them or are financially unable to do so. Some deportees reportedly have been exploited for political purposes. In such instances opposition groups will denigrate ‘deportees’ and attribute nefarious acts to them for political gain.

Furthermore, the seeming lack of concern by the government about their welfare leads to the feelings by the populace that these persons are unwanted and are a ‘problem’ to society. Unfortunately, deportees, particularly males, tend to be labelled a deviant group, regardless of the nature of the violation that led to their deportation, and they are often accused of being responsible for the increase in the home country societal crime. There is also a tendency to stereotype deportees as having certain perceived negative attributes. In some cases they are blacklisted by public officials, both in the host country and country of origin. However, they do not fit any one profile in terms of occupation, ethnicity, gender or reason for being deported.  Many who have been detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and subject to deportation are non-violent offenders.

The number of deportations to the Caribbean has increased under the last two United States government administrations. Notably, figures from the 2017 US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removals Operations Report for the Caribbean region are quite revealing: Guyana 142; Jamaicans 782; Trinidad and Tobagonians 128; Haitians 5, 578. These numbers are likely to increase with continued draconian US immigration laws. What appears to be unrelenting deportations to the Caribbean has continued under the current US government administration.

When immigrants are uprooted and sent back to their country of origin, not only is family life disrupted, but children in particular, whose parents are deported face social dislocation and mental health consequences. As observed by several researchers, this is true for those who remain in the U.S. separated from deported relatives, as well as those who leave the country in order to preserve the family’s unity. The increase in deportation and suppression of family reunification because of changed policy are traumatizing for immigrant families, causing fear, anxiety, vulnerability and victimization. The social and emotional costs could be devastating.

In the throes of significant economic and social transformation, vulnerable groups such as the homeless, mentally ill, elderly and increasingly deportees, are likely not to be adequately nor proportionately represented. Advocacy measures for the deportees must be sustained. Owing to the growing magnitude and novelty of dealing with this population, there should be a reintegration programme. Effectively planning for their reintegration is not only strongly recommended but should be based on knowledge of this phenomenon, from both a human development and socio-economic perspective. Understanding the social, political and psychological dynamics of the process of deportation and resettlement is essential for their adjustment. This includes unambiguous policy, an effective programme and capacity to deal with any residual tensions that may emerge between the local population and deportees.

The Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Citizenship, and Social Protection should have a profile of these individuals that includes information not only about who they are and the reason(s) for deportation, but also on family contacts in the diaspora and home country, accomplishments and skills acquired both at home and while overseas.

The role of Diaspora Voluntary Organizations

Apart from the reputation of  “giving back” by sending remittances, a growing number of diasporans have expressed concern about the fate of deportees and other underserved groups. Deportee reintegration programmes in other Caribbean nations have been implemented by diaspora organizations. The Family Unification and Resettlement Initiative (FURI) is a New York-based Jamaican Diaspora Organization. Working with the government and funded by donor agencies including the National Organization of Deported Migrants (NODM), the British High Commission, and public tax deductible contributions, this organization has instituted a programme to address the problem of deportee reintegration. FURI’s objective is to offer alternatives that “foster faith, hope and confidence that life can be worthwhile”. The organization aims to decrease the stigma and assist in the reintegration of deported persons by collaborating with other service agencies and help them adjust to the new home environment. Founding member Carmen Albarus-Lindo suggests that it is important to help “displaced persons adjust positively to deportation….and the important role they can have on development and improve their own lives.” Since many deportees do not have close relatives in the home country, FURI initially arranged accommodation to assist them in the early stages of their return. Sustained financial and other needed help, including the provision of and for commercial farming with the use of greenhouse technology are provided. The components of the programme are: Accommodation/Shelter referrals; Employment/Vocational counseling training referrals; Drug/Alcohol abuse rehab referrals; Health care Referrals; and Counseling; Reconnecting with families; Help in obtaining National Identification and other important documents.

Guyana and other Caribbean countries could benefit by replicating such a programme, which should be viewed as an investment. Assessment for rehabilitation services should also be a part of such a programme. Some deportees can be considered for the same rehabilitation programmes expected for persons who violate the laws in their home countries and after a period of incarceration can expect to be reintegrated into society. A well-structured reintegration programme and educating the public will help mitigate the concerns of civil society about deportees. It is imperative for deportees to be reintegrated into society since the overt or covert expressed desires of ‘local’ persons that they should again emigrate, albeit ‘illegally’ is wishful thinking and should be discouraged. This is rendered moot since there is normally an immigration stipulation barring possible return to the host country for a specified number of years (USA -10 years for each deportation order).

In light of the anticipated wealth elevation in Guyana, (1) Will there be the provision of needed resources for an effective reintegration programme? (2) Would this be considered as part of the promise of “maximum benefit” to all Guyanese, as well as the pledge of “social protection and other social services?”  How Caribbean governments respond to this problem will determine their legacy in the realm of humanitarian response to birthright citizenship.

Source: Reintegration of deportees: The challenge of a Guyanese immigration experience

Deportation flight leaves UK for Jamaica despite court ruling

More questionable UK government practice:

A planned deportation flight to Jamaica has taken off but with only around half of those due to have been on board after a court last night upheld a legal challenge.

As the government came under fire for proceeding with the flight, it was defended on Tuesday by the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, who said those onboard were not members of the Windrush generation but offenders who posed a risk to the public.

“These are all foreign national offenders – they have all received custodial sentences of 12 months or more. They are responsible for crimes like manslaughter, rape, dealing in class A drugs,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

Asked how many people were onboard, he said he did not know the exact number but believed it was “around 20 – or above 20.” Around 56 people were originally thought to have been due to be deported.

Human Rights Watch: More Than 200 Salvadorans Were Abused, Killed After Deportation

A reminder of the impact of the Trump administration policies:

After living in the U.S. for five years, cousins Walter T. and Gaspar T. were deported to their home country of El Salvador in 2019, where they were ripped from their beds one night and beaten by police, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

“They began beating us until we arrived at the police barracks,” Gaspar said in interviews.

The thrashings went on there for three days, according to the men. Despite threats from authorities that they’d be charged with gang membership, they were eventually released. No charges were filed.

Walter and Gaspar, who say they had initially fled El Salvador to escape forcible gang recruitment, had hoped to gain asylum in the U.S. But their applications were denied.

The pair’s experience is one of more than 200 cases uncovered by Human Rights Watch in which Salvadorans are put in harm’s way — at risk of violence at the hands of gangs, law enforcement or security forces — as a result of tightening asylum and immigration policies in the U.S.

“Salvadorans are facing murder, rape, and other violence after deportation in shockingly high numbers, while the US government narrows Salvadorans’ access to asylum and turns a blind eye to the deadly results of its callous policies,” said Alison Parker managing director of the US Program at Human Rights Watch and coauthor of the report.

The 117-page report was compiled over a year and a half using court records, press reports and first-hand interviews with surviving family members and nongovernmental agency workers.

In all, researchers found 138 cases of repatriated Salvadorans killed since 2013. More than 70 others were beaten, sexually assaulted, extorted, tortured or went missing, according to the study. But, the reports says, the deaths “represent the tip of the iceberg—as … people deported to El Salvador encounter a wide range of human rights abuses that fall short of death.”

Until now, no government, U.N. or nongovernmental organization has monitored what happens to people when they’re returned to El Salvador, according to HRW.

“This report begins to fill that gap,” the study says.

Source: Human Rights Watch: More Than 200 Salvadorans Were Abused, Killed After Deportation

CBSA has increased deportations, though removals of irregular asylum seekers remain low

Some useful numbers in this update:

The Canada Border Services Agency has ramped up deportations of failed refugee claimants and other foreign nationals and permanent residents who have lost the right to stay in Canada, amid concerns about the ability of Canada’s asylum system to respond quickly to spikes in refugee claims.

Removals from Canada have dropped significantly in the last several years, from more than 19,000 people in 2012-13 to around 8,000 in recent years. But that number climbed to roughly 9,500 people in 2018-19, following an internal effort to speed up the pace of deportations.

Despite the overall increase, the numbers remain low for removals of failed irregular asylum seekers — those who enter Canada from the U.S. between official border crossings, but who are unsuccessful in claiming refugee status — even though Ottawa has said it is prioritizing their removal.

A spokesperson for Border Security Minister Bill Blair told the National Post that anyone to be deported from Canada is given due process. “But once legal avenues have been exhausted, individuals are expected to respect our laws and leave Canada, or as per our commitments, be removed,” said Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux in an email. “We are re-investing in the agency to ensure that processing continues to happen in a manner that is fair, fast and final.”

Last fall, the CBSA confirmed it had set a target of 10,000 removals for the 2018-19 fiscal year, a notable increase over the previous three years, when removals ranged from 7,900 to 8,600. At the time, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the agency needed to “pick up the pace” of removals, and pointed to $7.5 million in funding allocated to the CBSA in Budget 2018. “We’ve provided some extra resources for CBSA to do the work that’s necessary,” Goodale said. The agency has now confirmed it removed a total of 9,584 people last year.

Backlogs in Canada’s immigration system have been the subject of increased scrutiny since an influx of asylum seekers began crossing the Canada-U.S. border between official ports of entry after the 2016 election of U.S. President Donald Trump. Since January 2017, about 45,000 people have entered Canada in this way, using a loophole in the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement that generally requires asylum seekers to make a refugee claim in whichever country they get to first.

In May, the auditor general found that Canada’s asylum system is unable to cope with such surges, with refugee claimants waiting two years for decisions on their claims. The backlog of asylum seekers numbered about 75,000 at the time and will likely continue to grow. However, the number of people entering Canada illegally has dropped considerably, and is currently only half what it was at this time last year.

The government is taking steps to speed up the entire system, from claim hearings to removals. Budget 2019 earmarked $1.18 billion over five years for border security and processing of asylum claims.

The CBSA also says it is now prioritizing the removal of irregular asylum seekers whose claims have been denied, as it does people who are deemed threats to national security or who are involved in organized crime, crimes against humanity or other types of criminal activity. However, Canada has still deported only a small minority of the tens of thousands of irregular asylum seekers who’ve entered the country in the last two years. According to figures the CBSA provided to the Post, the agency removed just 723 irregular migrants with failed refugee claims between April 1, 2017 and June 21, 2019.

This is largely because asylum seekers must exhaust all legal avenues of appeal before they can be removed, which takes time. The agency also pointed to a number of other factors that can delay removals, including the fact that Canada temporarily halts removals to countries in armed conflict or experiencing environmental disasters — such measures are currently in place for Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq. A lack of valid travel documents and medical issues can also delay removals.

“The CBSA is firmly committed to meeting its mandate under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to conduct removals as soon as possible,” a spokesperson told the Post in an email, adding that the agency has increased staffing levels and improved co-ordination with other branches of the immigration system to speed up removals. The agency said there are currently just under 3,000 people with an “actionable removal order” in Canada, meaning with no barrier to deportation.

Still, Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said setting quotas for deportations like the CBSA’s target of 10,000 removals can be problematic. “One of the concerns is who ends up being a priority for removal,” she said. When border officers are given targets they need to meet, there’s an incentive to prioritize families over criminals because officials can remove a number of people at once, often with less effort, she said.

Dench said the removal process can often feel arbitrary, with some people getting calls from the CBSA almost immediately, while others wait years before being asked to leave.

Source: CBSA has increased deportations, though removals of irregular asylum seekers remain low

Proposed federal tool to ‘blacklist a country,’ stop visa processing alarms immigration lawyers

Of note, a further sign of tightening immigration policies (and the ongoing expansive use of budget omnibus legislation). Questions regarding the numbers involved are legitimate and necessary as part of evidence-based policy making, where transparency is important:

The Liberals’ omnibus budget bill gives the government a political tool to stop issuing some visas or permits to people from countries it deems difficult to deal with in deportation proceedings, a measure some immigration lawyers are calling “overly broad” and a “blunt instrument” without the necessary checks and balances.

One of the measures in the almost 400-page budget implementation bill, C-97, would change the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to give cabinet the ability to make orders about processing applications for temporary resident visas, work permits, and study permits from nationals of a country where its government is “unreasonably refusing to issue or unreasonably delaying the issuance of travel documents” for its citizens or nationals “who are in Canada.” Such travel documents are necessary for deportations. The person being deported needs to be able to travel back home.

Lawyers see it as a political tool to apply pressure to countries delaying that process, and are divided on whether the proposed provision would be misused—because the power could simply be in the threat—but many agree the potential is there.

The tool would allow the Canadian government to retaliate by stopping visas or permits “to whatever extent it wants,” said lawyer Raoul Boulakia, who said he found it especially worrying that there are no checks and balances on what he called a “very radical” measure.

“I think it’s making a very big hammer to hit what might be a straight nail. The wording is overly broad. It can have impacts that have nothing to do with the probable policy intent and it allows for a situation that becomes unmeasured relative to the original problem,” said Mr. Boulakia, president of the Refugee Lawyers Association.

“There’s no mechanism for testing the argument that [another] government has been unreasonable,” he said.

Chantal Desloges, a lawyer who specializes in immigration and refugee law, called it a “blunt instrument” allowing the government to “blacklist a country” for certain types of visas or permits. That would mark a shift in approach, she said, and while there are restrictions in Canada’s immigration system through lottery systems or quotas, Canada still looks at those applications. If cabinet makes an order, it would mean Canada could “refuse to even entertain the application.”

The new tool is a “catch-all provision” that’s likely going to lead to legal challenges and “where it lands could be problematic for a number of reasons,” said Mario Bellissimo, a former chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s (CBA) national immigration law section. The current CBA national chair, Marina Sedai, said the group is studying the section and still developing a position.

The provision has “far-reaching potential,” said Mr. Bellissimo, who said it’s concerning that it could be retroactive in that it could apply to people who already submitted applications, for example.

“It alters rights that were previously held,” he said of the section of the bill that says that applications would be “suspended during the period or periods set out” in the government order and that the processing of any applications “that are pending on the coming into force of the order” may be “terminated.”

For him and Ms. Desloges, it raises a number of questions: how serious is the problem? What’s the current number of would-be deportees stuck in Canada who need travel documents? Where and how would the application being applied? What would be the criteria for its use?

“I assume [the government] will have to develop criteria otherwise they’re opening themselves up to issues of bias or discrimination,” said Ms. Desloges. “It’s such a sweeping thing.”

The CBC reported last fall that Canada’s border agency was boosting efforts to deport failed refugee claimants and others unwelcome in Canada, having 18,000 cases in its deportation inventory. Delays can happen not only due to a lack of valid travel documents, but also medical issues, appeals and other legal proceedings, a temporary suspension of removals, and other factors.

Canada has faced a wave of asylum seekers entering from the United States at unofficial entry points in recent years. The CBC reported that last spring officials said that of the 68,000 asylum claimants who had come to Canada since the start of 2017, less than one per cent had been removed, despite the fact that many had been deemed ineligible to stay.

Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux, press secretary to Border Security Minister Bill Blair, said Canada “always looks to co-operate with countries when attempting to remove inadmissible persons, but there are instances when others countries refuse to give needed travel documents to their own nationals that Canada.”

“In instances when delays by such countries are unreasonable, our proposed legislative changes would also allow Canada to respond by‎ stopping the processing of certain visa and permit applications from that country.”

Asked at what point Canada would make such an order, if there are parameters to inform that decision, and whether it could be applied to address a single case or would require a pattern of delay, Ms. Cadieux said that it is “a targeted measure that will address certain visa and permit applications. Decisions will be made case-by-case.” She did not respond to queries about the number of people in Canada who have been flagged for removal, and lack travel documents, and the top countries with outstanding travel documents.

Measure ‘less problematic than other ‘earth-shaking’ changes to immigration system: lawyer

This measure is “less problematic” than the other “earth-shaking” changes to the immigration system proposed in the Liberals’ budget bill, said immigration lawyer Sarah Boyd.

Most refugee and immigration lawyers are focused on proposed changes to asylum laws that would prevent applicants from making refugee claims in Canada if they have made such claims in some other countries, including the United States. Ms. Cadieux said the changes are meant to “better manage, discourage, and prevent irregular migration,” while Mr. Blair (Scarborough Southwest, Ont.) said the intent is to prevent “asylum shopping.”

The Liberals campaigned on a promise to stop making legislative changes in this manner, Ms. Boyd noted, calling the omnibus bill a broken promise and a “really problematic” parliamentary development due to the last few governments.

It also means the House Finance Committee is most likely to study the provisions, when lawyers say they really should be before the House Immigration Committee, which is more likely to pick up on unintended consequences.

On April 29, Speaker Geoff Regan (Halifax West, N.S.) ruled against an NDP motion to split the bill, saying “all of the measures…appear to arise out of” budget commitments, including the immigration measures under the section saying the government would enhance the integrity of Canada’s borders and asylum system.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.) had argued the omnibus bill includes “many unrelated measures” to the budget, highlighting the immigration changes as especially disheartening, saying the measures would “significantly transform the Canadian immigration system.”

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers has been focused on these provisions and said by email it doesn’t have a comment on the provision dealing with travel documents.

The bill shows the government is “changing gears,” said immigration lawyer Ravi Jean, pivoting from the infamous 2017 tweet from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) saying Canada welcomed those fleeing persecution, war, and terror.

“Those moves around restricting the ability of refugees to make claims and trying to tighten up Safe Third Country [Agreement with the U.S.] show that the government feels vulnerable with respect to refugees,” said Mr. Jain, who is vice-chair of the CBA immigration law section.

The change to travel documents likely comes from frustration, he said, noting the government gets a “bad rap” for detaining people too long, but also for people staying too long in Canada who have been told they must leave.

Lawyers weren’t sure which countries the government had in mind when creating the provision, and Mr. Blair’s office didn’t answer which countries were the most unresponsive to requests for travel documents, but in the past some observers said China, Iran, and India, and some African nations have been problematic.

Use of the measure raises the prospect of pushback from within Canada too, from postsecondary institutions if the government targets educational visas, from businesses if it targets work permits, from trade and tourism industries if visitor visas are affected, and so on.

“That’s the balance they’re going to have a strike. Maybe the threat will be enough,” said Mr. Jain.

Ms. Boyd said it’s not an unusual legislative tool for countries and would “make sense” to deploy when a country generally refuses to accept deportation of its nationals.

“It would really depend on whether government misuses this,” she said, like in a case where countries may not have the resources to conduct full investigations on their own, or when identity documents simply don’t exist.

“I don’t know what good it would do, to put political pressure on that country,” she said, calling it a “strong-arm tactic,” to “bully” an outcome.

Anything that moves away from individualization and becomes country-based will “run right into potential constitutional challenges,” said Mr. Bellissimo, “because then you’re not dealing with individuals, you’re dealing with pre-determined countries of origin.”

He said the law should be more explicit, noting lawyers will often look at parliamentary debates to understand legislative intent because that can be brought to court. Such discussions are less likely with the time constraint and limited study for omnibus bills.

“It sets a pattern of lawmaking,” that he and CBA has said “ violates the rule of law and does not lead for ultimately good decision making down the road.”

Source: Proposed federal tool to ‘blacklist a country,’ stop visa processing alarms immigration lawyers