Ottawa, February 16, 2012 — Legislation to protect the integrity of Canada’s immigration system was introduced today by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.
The proposed measures include further reforms to the asylum system to make it faster and fairer, measures to address human smuggling, and the authority to make it mandatory to provide biometric data with a temporary resident visa application.
“Canadians take great pride in the generosity and compassion of our immigration and refugee programs. But they have no tolerance for those who abuse our generosity and seek to take unfair advantage of our country,” said Minister Kenney.
The new bill, Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, proposes changes that build on reforms to the asylum system passed in June 2010 as part of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act.
The proposed measures would provide faster protection to those who genuinely need refuge, and faster removal for those who don’t.
In particular, refugee claimants from generally non-refugee-producing countries such as most of those in the European Union (EU) would be processed, on average, in 45 days compared to more than 1,000 days under the current system, or 171 days under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act.
“It has become clear that there are gaps in the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and we need stronger measures that are closer to the original refugee bill we tabled back in March 2010,” said Minister Kenney. “Canada receives more refugee claims from Europe than from Africa or Asia. Last year alone, 23% of all refugee claims made in Canada were made by nationals from the EU. That’s up from 14% the previous year. This growing trend threatens the integrity of our immigration system.”
In recent years over 95% of EU claims were withdrawn, abandoned or rejected. If that trend continues, that means that the unfounded claims from the 5,800 EU nationals who sought asylum last year will cost Canadian taxpayers nearly $170 million.
“Too many tax dollars are spent on bogus refugees. We need to send a message to those who would abuse Canada’s generous asylum system that if you are not in need of protection, you will be sent home quickly,” added Minister Kenney.
With the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and today’s legislation, the provinces and territories are expected to save in the range of $1.65 billion over five years in social assistance and education costs.
Most of the provisions in the former Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act (Bill C-4) have also been included in this new bill, with one modification. Minors under the age of 16 would be exempt from the detention proposals designed to deal with all mass arrivals from human smuggling operations.
“Our Government is sending a clear message that our doors are open to those who play by the rules, including legitimate refugees. However, we will crack down on those who endanger human lives and threaten the integrity of our borders,” said Minister Kenney. “Human smuggling is a despicable crime and Canadians think it’s unacceptable for criminals to abuse Canada’s immigration system for financial gain.”
Mandatory detention remains for people who enter Canada as part of a designated smuggling event. But once the identity of a claimant has been established and a refugee claim is approved, individuals would be released from detention.
The final component of the new legislation would give the Minister the authority to make it mandatory for visa applicants to provide biometric data (i.e., fingerprints, photograph) to visit Canada. Documents can be forged or stolen, whereas biometric data provide greater certainty, confirming the identity of applicants when they apply.
“Biometrics will be an important new tool to help protect the safety and security of Canadians by reducing identity fraud and identity theft,” said Minister Kenney. “As fraudsters become more sophisticated, biometrics will improve our ability to keep violent criminals and those who pose a threat to Canada out. In short, biometrics will strengthen the integrity of Canada’s immigration system while helping facilitate legitimate travel.”
These measures would put us in line with international partners such as the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, and the United States. This would help prevent known criminals, failed refugee claimants and deportees from using a fake identity to obtain a visa. The use of biometrics would also bolster Canada’s existing measures to facilitate legitimate travel by providing a fast and reliable tool for confirming identity.
All these reforms are aimed at deterring abuse of Canada’s generous immigration and refugee system. With these proposed measures, the integrity of Canada’s immigration programs and the safety and security of Canadians will be protected.
“To maintain the support of Canadians for our generous immigration and refugee systems, we must demonstrate that Canada has a fair, well-managed system that does not tolerate queue jumping,” concluded Minister Kenney.
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