Fact check: How are refugee claimants vetted in Canada?
Published Friday, February 24, 2017 9:11AM EST
With the dramatic increase in asylum claims being made along Canada-U.S. border crossings, the UN Refugee Agency now says they are monitoring the situation on our borders.
But with the increased awareness there are also questions about how Canada vets the claimants.
Recent calls for a crackdown on the system are unnecessary given that all refugee claimants, regardless of where they “show up” along the border, are subject to extensive screening in Canada, says Sharryn Aiken, law professor at Queen’s University and an expert on immigration and refugee law.
Whether crossing an unguarded border or coming from overseas, no one gets a “free pass” coming into Canada, Aiken said, because asylum-seekers aren’t allowed to pursue a refugee claim until a screening is completed.
How to check for security threats?
“An official with the Canadian Border Services Agency will meet with an individual, interview them, and use all the resources at their disposal, including extensive information-sharing networks that Canada has with the U.S., as well as other counterparts around the world, to figure out who the people are,” Aiken said in an interview with CTV’s Your Morning on Friday.
“Obviously, if they have identity documents, that work is facilitated, but even if someone shows up with nothing, their names are plugged into computers, Canada’s security intelligence office will often be involved, and people are screened to ensure that they don’t represent a threat to the country, either in terms of national security issues or in terms of serious criminality.”
Aiken said that even among those who are determined to be eligible, if information subsequently comes to light that suggests a mistake was made at any time, that matter can be reopened. “The person can be subject to what’s called an admissibility hearing and indeed they can be precluded from pursuing asylum.”
Is Canada’s screening system modern?
The screening and claimant process in Canada is “widely” misunderstood, Aiken said.
“It’s not an old-fashioned system. It’s modernized, it’s computerized,” she said, adding that if any “red flags pop up” during the screening, Canadian officials have access to that information and can track it.
Where there’s doubt, she added, “officials have the authority to detain and indeed maintain the detention until they’re satisfied that someone does indeed pose no threat.”
How do they enter?
Aiken said that all refugee claimants that are crossing the border through Manitoba, whether at a port of entry or irregular crossing, are all “walking into the arms of officials.”
“It’s not as though these individuals are somehow evading detection,” she said. “They are willingly presenting themselves because they want to pursue asylum, and so officials are doing the screening work. “
But she agrees with the call for resources to process the cases, “because without the resources individuals will be left languishing for a very long time,” as they wait for screening interviews to be completed.
So, is the influx of asylum-seekers currently putting a tax on our system?
“I think that it is, and I think the answer to that burden is to temporarily suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement, which will encourage people to present themselves at established ports of entry,” Aiken said.
The terms of the Canada-U.S. treaty provide for temporary suspensions, Aiken said, meaning all Canada “has to do is serve notice that it’s interested in a temporary suspension.”