New refugee system to fast-track claims from 'safe' countries
Saira Peesker, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Friday, December 14, 2012 12:22PM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 14, 2012 12:34PM EST
Refugee claimants from the European Union, Croatia and the United States will have their immigration cases to Canada fast-tracked as of Saturday in a measure designed to more quickly weed out people believed not to be “legitimate refugees,” the federal government has announced.
In a public statement, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Friday the government has deemed 27 countries as “safe,” meaning they are believed by the United Nations to uphold the rule of law and human rights.
Refugee claimants originating from those countries will lose their right to certain types of appeal if they are denied status, and will also lose automatic stays of deportation if they are able to appeal. The government says their applications will now be processed in fewer than 40 days, during which time they will no longer be able to apply for a Canadian work permit.
He is hoping the new “fast and fair asylum system” will help weed out false claims, which he says have skyrocketed in recent years.
“It is cause for serious concern that the European Union, with its democratic tradition of freedom, respect for human rights and independent judiciaries, has become the number one source of asylum claims made in Canada over most of the past three years,” he said.
“In 2011, Canada received more asylum claims from the European Union than we did from Africa or Asia. We received more from Hungary in particular than we did from Iran, or China or North Korea combined.”
Kenney said Hungary was Canada’s top source of asylum claims this year, and that citizens from that country overwhelming choose Canada in which to make their claim.
He also said most EU claimants eventually abandon or withdraw their own claims before they get to the stage of being accepted or rejected by Canada.
The move has prompted outrage among some immigrant settlement and human rights groups, some who classify it as outright racism -- saying that denying someone equal treatment based on where they come from is clearly unfair.
Many believe the Conservative government is trying to stem the flow of Europe’s Roma population, who, according to rights group Amnesty International, face “massive discrimination” such as forced evictions, segregated school and housing and police brutality throughout the continent, particular its poorer countries.
“Numbering between 10 and 12 million people, the Roma are one of Europe’s largest and most disadvantaged minorities,” says an Amnesty report released in April, called “Discrimination Against Roma in Europe.”
“On average, they have lower incomes, worse health, poorer housing, lower literacy rates and higher levels of unemployment than the rest of the population. These are not simply consequences of poverty; they are the result of widespread, often systematic, discrimination and other human rights violations. They are, in particular, the result of prejudice -- of centuries of societal, institutional and individual acts of discrimination, that have pushed the great majority of Roma to the very margins of society -- and which are keeping them there.”