News/Canada: Crackdown targets illegal immigration

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Subject: News/Canada: Crackdown targets illegal immigration
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Jun 19 2000 - 10:16:06 EDT


Crackdown targets illegal immigration
New act imposes stiff fines, prison
By Brodie Fenlon And Anne Dawson
London Free Press, April 7, 2000

OTTAWA -- People smugglers could face $1 million in fines and life in
prison under tough new immigration legislation introduced yesterday.

Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan said the Immigration and Refugee
Protection Act -- the first significant overhaul in more than 20 years --
cracks down on abusers of the system, such as the traffickers who smuggled
600 Chinese migrants onto the West Coast last summer.

"Closing the back door to those who would abuse the system will allow us to
open the front door even wider -- both to genuine refugees and to the
immigrants Canada will need to grow and prosper in the future," Caplan said.

Since January, 28 young Chinese nationals have been discovered along
Southwestern Ontario's borders. All but two have claimed refugee status and
are being held in custody, pending those hearings.

Those who arrive illegally in Canada by plane, boat or other means would be
detained under the new act, Caplan said, to keep smuggled migrants from
fleeing and protect them from those who'd enslave them for passage debts.

Caplan said the proposed act makes it easier for genuine immigrants and
refugees to reunite with family members sooner and faster.

The changes were welcomed by Edward Ebanks, a professor of sociology and
demographics at the University of Western Ontario, who said Canada needs to
speed up the refugee claims process.

Many of the Asian migrants smuggled into Canada are wealthy and jump the
queue on "all of those who are really suffering around the world -- the
real refugees," Ebanks said.

But London immigration lawyer Michael Loebach said the smuggling problem in
Canada is overblown. More than three-quarters of refugees enter the United
States first, then claim refugee status at the Canadian border, he said.

A bigger problem is the length of time it takes Canadian embassies to
process claims, Loebach said.

"Embassies need to be beefed up. They're so overworked, it's taking them
two years to get a normal case through," he said.

Even with a $579-million injection over four years into the immigration and
refugee system, it will still take between nine months and two years to
complete a refugee claimant's case, Caplan said.

Officials also admitted yesterday there is a 25,000-case backlog of refugee
cases to be heard by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Caplan said it's her goal to meet the Liberal election campaign promise to
increase the number of immigrants to one per cent of the country's
population -- about 300,000. Ottawa has failed to reach its target rate of
between 200,000 and 225,000 immigrants and refugees for the past two years.

Key changes to the refugee determination system include a new "front-end"
check where refugee claimants are screened on arrival.

Serious criminals, those who have spent two years in jail or committed
crimes that would garner 10 years in Canada, will no longer be allowed to
apply for refugee status.

Caplan said yesterday she'd consider deporting someone who faces death or
torture in their own country if it means Canadians could be at risk by
keeping the individual here.

The legislation consolidates three avenues of appeal into one for failed
refugee claimants, but adds a paper review for some failed claimants.
Officials say it speeds up the system.

IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN

The new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act would:

- Create penalties of up to $1 million or life in prison for smuggling
illegal immigrants into the country.

- Determine whether applicants qualify as refugees in six months for
regular cases, three months for those in detention.

- Weed out criminals and terrorists by requiring security checks of all
refugee claimants.

- Clarify grounds for detaining refugees. Illegal migrants, those without
documentation and those who are "unco-operative" could be held.

- Allow fewer appeals that delay removing refugee applicants with serious
criminal records.

- Suspend claims for refugees charged with crimes until courts rule.
Melanie Orhant <<morhant@igc.org>>
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