In 1996, there was a surge of phony refugee claimants to Canada from the Chilean port of Valparaiso. Word had got around in a poor neighbourhood that Canada was an easy mark. These obviously economic migrants were told: Apply for refugee status in Canada, get into the multilayered refugee-determination system and melt into Canadian society. And the chances of getting caught, or being deported, are next to nil.
This is an all too familiar story found around the world. This is what happened in Sri Lanka, Somalia, China, India, Mexico, and elsewhere. Once word got back at the ease at which one got into Canada via the refugee system and the attendant benefits (social assistance, socialized medicine, all the rights of a Canadian citizen except the right vote) that come with it a flood of applicants typically follows.
And why is Canada considered an easy mark?
It's a situation linked to a 20-year-old Supreme Court ruling (the Singh case) that led to amnesties, administrative chaos, bureaucracy, huge financial costs and, eventually, to the existing refugee-determination system.
Under it, Canada has to process anybody and everybody who comes to this country and claims refugee status, bogus or otherwise. To try to stem the flow, we impose visa requirements.
The Singh decision was the result of a lawyer representing six Gyuanese Sikhs whose failed bid at asylum led to a Charter challenge in which they won leaving Canada with the financially burdensome and bureaucratically chaotic hole in Canada's border that is the refugee stream. To my understanding the government can reverse the decision by way of the notwithstanding clause contained in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and plug the hole but curiously it does not.
Instead of imposing visa restrictions Canada needs to revisit the Singh decision. It is the very root of the problem. To cure any illness you need to treat the cause of it, not concern yourself solely with tending to the symptoms.
As for some solutions the Globe piece has this to say:
Canada should be able - although this would be hard and controversial, and draw the ire of all the refugee advocates in Canada - to post an annual list of countries where, based on extensive research, we do not consider individuals to be threatened with persecution or torture or discrimination, and are unable to seek redress from local courts and authorities.
The list of countries would obviously be updated to take account of changed political circumstances abroad. And to ensure that Canada remains a country that welcomes genuine refugees, we could increase the number brought here from United Nations refugee camps, where we know people truly are refugees. (The Harper government, to its credit, recently resettled refugees from northern Thailand, and is bringing in 1,000 Bhutanese refugees a year for five years.)
Doesn't sound like a bad idea to me.
If the government doesn't plug the hole that is the Singh decision then Canada will continue to be financially burdened by bogus refugee claims for years to come.