Refugee advocates shocked by proposed asylum changes in Liberals' budget bill

Blanche Robertson
April 13, 2019

Canada plans to stop migrants from seeking asylum if they have already done so in another country - a move decried by refugee advocates but defended Wednesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The law would allow immigration officers at the border to reject refugee claims if the asylum seeker has already made a claim in another country that has an immigration information-sharing agreement with Canada.

Under the provision, asylum seekers deemed ineligible to make claims in Canada will not have the legal right to have their claims heard by an independent tribunal or court. Under the new legislation, these individuals would be disqualified from attaining a hearing with Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board. Due to Trump's hard stance on immigration, people who initially meant to make an application in the United States, opted for travelling all the way up north and cross the border illegally into Canada, Global News reported previous year.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair said the measure is aimed at preventing "asylum shopping".

"I expect this to be a major change for Canada's refugee system and I'm surprised to see it buried in a budget bill", he told the BBC in an email.

Canada will make sure no one is sent to a country where they would be in danger or at risk of persecution, she said.

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Most of the asylum-seekers now making claims in Canada haven't made a refugee claim in the U.S., Matas said from Chennai, India.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, says substantial changes to immigration laws like the ones being proposed ought to be given a full hearing in Parliament, rather than being slipped into a fast-tracked budget bill.

Strangely enough, the proposed amendments that will change the national immigration policy are included as mere clauses in the government's budget bill.

Dench says she and her members, which include over 100 Canadian organizations that work directly with refugees and immigrants, were "in a state of shock and dismay and great disappointment" over the proposed changes.

Instead, denied claimants would have the right to submit a written, pre-removal risk assessment, which lawyer Kevin Wiener says has about a 3% success rate. Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the changes indicate that Trudeau has "effectively admitted that he has failed to manage our border".

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