05 January 2012

Canada immigration warned tough stance won’t deter refugees

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A coalition of leading Australian refugee organisations hase pleaded with Canadian immigration authorities to learn from Australian experiences and rethink their tough anti-human smuggling bill.

Canadian immigration

Australian advocacy groups hope Canadian immigration authorities rethink new policies

The anti-smuggling bill, known as Bill C-4 would give Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney the authority to designate specific refugees as 'irregular arrivals' which would place them under mandatory arrest and permit detention for up to a year.

Furthermore, any asylum seekers accepted under the new bill as refugees would be ineligible to apply for permanent residency or to sponsor their families for five years.

The Immigration Minister had originally hoped that Bill C-4, which is based on a similar Australian model introduced in 1999, would have been passed before Christmas but it is at its second reading in the House of Commons, giving Members the chance to debate the scope of the bill.

The Australian influence on the bill's creation has prompted the Australian advocacy groups to warn the Canada immigration authorities that "a policy of mandatory detention will be a financial and humanitarian disaster for Canada" in a letter addressed to the Canadian Prime Minister.

Australian Immigration and Citizenship Secretary Andrew Metcalfe previously stated that "Detaining people for years has not deterred anyone from coming".

The Australians' warnings are further supported by facts, despite the implementation of these strict measures in 1999 the number of 'unauthorised arrivals' has continued to grow, with over 100 boats and 6,500 people arriving in 2010 alone.

According to Australian officials, the cost of detaining the 4,223 asylum seekers currently detained in Australia is a huge $137,317 (£90,579) per person per year. The humanitarian cost is also high with several suicides, almost a hundred psychiatric admissions and thousands of hunger strikes and hospitilisations among the detainees.

While the Australian advocates hope that Canada restructures the bill in its second reading, a spokesperson for Canadian Public Safety Minster Vic Towews, Michael Patton said they welcomed the Australians' input but the measures were called for and necessary.

Patton said "Our government received a strong mandate from Canadians to take fair, reasonable and tough action to prevent the abuse of Canada's immigration system by human smugglers. 

The Canadian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people make their application to the Canadian Embassy.

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