Budget bill changes refugee laws to disqualify asylum-seekers with claims in more than one country

The new disqualification would make those individuals illegible for asylum claims in Canada if they are seeking refugee protection in another country.

Cosmin Dzsurdzsa Montreal QC

Included in the Liberal’s new budget bill tabled on Monday is a provision which would bar refugees from making claims in Canada if they have already sought asylum in another country.

Minister of Border Security Bill Blair claims that the new change to the  
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is intent on discouraging “asylum-shopping”.

“I can tell you we’ve been working very hard over the past several  months to significantly reduce the number of people who are crossing  our borders irregularly. There’s a right  way to come to the country to seek asylum and/or to seek to immigrate  to this country, and we’re trying to encourage people to use the  appropriate channels and to disincentivize people from doing it  improperly,”  said Blair on Tuesday.

The new disqualification would make those individuals illegible for asylum claims in Canada if they are seeking refugee protection in another country.

According to statistics, since April 2017 3,150 of the asylum claimants in Canada had already applied for protection in the United States. Under the new legislation, these individuals would be disqualified from attaining a hearing with Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board.

Trudeau has defended the decision claiming that it’s the government’s priority to ensure that Canadians have confidence in the current system.

“Our priority has been to ensure that Canadians continue to have confidence in our asylum system, in our refugee system,” said Trudeau.

The recent changes seem to indicate a shift in the Trudeau government’s approach to the border. Since the Prime Minister’s 2015 “Welcome to Canada” tweet tens of thousands of refugees have crossed the Canadian border illegally.

By the beginning of 2019, the Immigration and Refugee Board was facing a refugee backlog of approximately 64,000 claims. The new legislation is likely an attempt to further clear the backlog and process claims quicker.

Alongside the recent changes to legislation, Minister Bill Blair has also been in touch with American counterparts to seek a resolution to the loopholes in the Safe Third Country Agreement.

According to the agreement, asylum claimants must make their claims in the first “safe country” they arrive in, however migrants have been circumventing the procedure by crossing at unofficial points of entry along the US-Canada border.

“There has been some discussion about how we might apply the agreement  to those who present themselves at a place other than the border where  there’s clear evidence that they’ve come from the United States, that  they were in a place that was, in fact, a safe third country, or if  they’ve made application in the United States and they have legal travel  documents in the United States,” said Blair about the negotiations.


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