This story appeared in today's Toronto Star. It concerns an asylum seeking family from North Korea whose claim was rejected by a refugee appeal tribunal.
In classic Toronto Star fashion the story sides with the family by pandering to the reader's emotions while under representing pertinent details that would lead one to conclude that Ottawa was in the right to overturn the family's asylum claim.
Some facts need presenting. Firstly, the family traveled to Canada via South Korea. This means that they landed in South Korea first prior to trying their luck with Canada's refugee system. South Korea grants automatic citizenship to any defecting North Korean. Therefore these people were automatically entitled to South Korean citizenship. South Korea is a democratic, industrialized, first world nation with a standard of living on par with if not better than Canada's.
Second, while the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (CRSR) places responsibilities on the signatory nations - Canada and South Korea being signatory nations - it also places responsibilities on those seeking asylum. One responsibility is to seek internal flight within one's homeland before seeking shelter in another country. If that is not possible then the asylum seeker is expected to ask for asylum in the first nation of safe passage. In this family's case that would be South Korea. If internal flight is possible but not chosen by the asylum seeker prior to looking for asylum elsewhere; or if internal flight is not an option and the asylum seeker arrives in a safe country but chooses not to ask for asylum there wishing to find asylum in a third country then the individual is guilty of what is called asylum shopping. Thus, the third nation is well within its right to refuse asylum to that person on the grounds that they had other avenues to find safety but opted not to follow them hoping to gain entry into another nation of choice. In other words they are trying to immigrate via a nation's asylum system. And those nation's with the most generous social benefits tend to be high on the list of the asylum shopper.
Third, granting asylum to these people is an insult to our ally and trading partner, South Korea. It implies South Korea is a nation of human rights abusers. The asylum seeking family claim they suffer from job discrimination and suspicions of being spies in South Korea because they are North Korean. But these aren't good enough grounds to grant anyone asylum in Canada. It's tantamount to French Canadians claiming refuge in the United States because Anglophone Canadians are mean to them.
Canada has been the target of waves of asylum shoppers before. There were Punjabi Sikhs in the late 1980s, Sri Lankans and Somalis all through the 1990s and into the 2000s, Mexicans in the early 2000s, and of late it has been Roma out of Europe. In all cases Canada was flooded with asylum claims from these and other countries. When word got back to the home country about the relative success of asylum claims suddenly, it seemed, everyone there was a refugee in need of Canada's protection. According to the article it appears this is what's happening with South Korea as claims from that nation have been steadily creeping up with news of acceptance rates of 50% and more. We need to put our foot down now and send a message before things get out of hand like it has several times before.