Canada revamps refugee law to curb "bogus" claims

Thu Feb 16, 2012 3:21pm EST
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada plans to toughen its refugee laws to filter out fake claims from "safe" countries like Hungary, which it says are clogging up the system and wasting taxpayer money.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney presented legislation on Thursday that would allow faster processing - and possibly faster deportation - of asylum seekers from a list of countries Ottawa deems to be safe for vulnerable groups.

"Our government is very concerned about the recent increase in refugee claims from democratic countries that respect human rights," Kenney told reporters in Ottawa.

"The growing number of bogus claims from European Union democracies is only exacerbating the problem," he said.

Canada's longstanding humanitarian tradition has made it a preferred haven for people fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries. The new measure is part of a broader effort by the Conservative government to take a more targeted approach to accepting newcomers and to clear up a costly backlog.

The law, which critics say is an attack on human rights, appears to target the large influx of claims from Hungary by Roma gypsies, the largest ethnic minority in Europe.

Kenney said that while many Roma face difficulties at home, they are not persecuted by the state. He said many came to Canada to abuse its "generous" welfare system.

"To be perfectly honest with you, we have people showing up at ... the airport where they make their asylum claim, asking where they can get their check from, their welfare check," he said, referring to the growing Roma population.   Continued...