Canada plans tough action against human smugglers

Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:21pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada vowed on Thursday to crack down on human smuggling from Asia in the wake of the arrival of two boats full of Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka, saying it expects more migrants to attempt the ocean journey.

The government denied it was backing away from its international treaty obligations to provide refuge to people fleeing persecution, but it said human smuggling rings were profiting from Canada's tradition of hospitality.

It outlined new legislation that includes tougher sentences for convicted smugglers and sets up new legal hurdles for migrants who use smuggling networks to reach Canada, even if their claims to be fleeing political persecution are deemed legitimate.

"Are these measures tough? Yes. In order to make the smugglers and fraudsters think twice they have to be," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told reporters.

Officials said smuggling rings have identified Canada as an easy and profitable target destination, so the proposed laws were designed to disrupt their "business model" by reducing the incentive for fake political refugees to make the attempt.

The proposals need Parliament's approval, so whether they actually get enacted could depend on the fate of the minority Conservative government. Opposition parties, which have a majority of seats in the House of Commons, could force an election over the budget next winter and put all legislation on hold.

The opposition New Democrats have already said they do not like some of the measures in the immigration legislation.

Immigration officials say Canada receives thousands of refugee applications each year, many from people in overseas refugee camps. Nearly all migrants who reach Canada before requesting refugee status arrive by air or drive across the border from the United States.   Continued...

<p>Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews (R), Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney (L), and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway Stockwell Day announce a series of new reforms to combat human smuggling in Delta, British Columbia October 21, 2010. REUTERS/Richard Lam</p>