Canada cracks down on "fake" refugees from European Union

Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:32pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will crack down on what it says is a wave of fake refugee claims from European Union nationals and deny the right of appeal to those deemed to be bogus applicants, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said on Friday.

The right-of-center Conservative government says that while it wants Canada to remain one of the world's top destinations for refugees, it is being swamped by people who pretend they are escaping persecution but in reality want to sign up for welfare payments.

Starting on Saturday, Ottawa will deal much more quickly with claims made by people from a list of "safe" countries that includes 25 of the European Union's 27 members, as well as Croatia and the United States.

Critics said the new rules meant genuine refugees would not be able to defend themselves before facing deportation.

Kenney said virtually all the claims made by people from the 27 nations in question were either abandoned or withdrawn. Most of the rest were rejected.

"It is a cause for serious concern that the European Union, with its democratic tradition of freedom, respect for human rights and independent judiciaries, has been the number-one source for asylum claims made in Canada over the past three years," he told a news conference.

"Failed EU claimants are able to spend years in Canada at great expense to our taxpayers - receiving free healthcare, welfare, education and other social benefits," he said.

From now on, he said, nationals from the 27 nations filing claims for asylum would have their cases heard within 45 days, rather than around 600 days as at present. They will not be allowed to appeal to a new refugee appeal division set up by the government.   Continued...

Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Wattie