Time for Canada to Fix it’s Ailing Refugee Processing
Is the US purposefully resisting changes to bilateral immigration agreements with Canada in order to keep undesirable asylum seekers out of the country? Sure seems that way.
Last week it emerged that an undocumented Somali used a regular port of entry to cross into Canada from the United States. Abdulahi Sharif is the same man who orchestrated a terror attack in Edmonton on Sept. 30. Reporting by Global News has revealed that Sharif was detained by US officials when he entered that country without documents and then managed to flee before his scheduled deportation in 2011. A year later he successfully claimed refugee status in Canada.
It appears that a loophole in the bilateral US-Canada Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) allows asylum seekers with documentation irregularities to enter Canada. Former Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney said last Wednesday that when he tried to renegotiate the agreement to do away with the loopholes that he was rebuffed by then Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “I think it needs to be changed, but the U.S. government has refused to do so,” Kenney said.
A former Canadian refugee processing official told me, that because of an overburdened system, people like Sharif slip through "all the time." He added: "He should have been detained until the full USA record is obtained and his identity was confirmed. But the Americans are not too keen on that level of information sharing because they just don't want failed asylum seekers back from Canada and then have to deport them."
Since the start of 2017, about 32,000 asylum seekers have entered Canada - up from 24,000 for all of 2016. More than 13,000 crossed over through irregular crossing points, and most will be able to stay in Canada on public support for several years before they have a proper hearing. In the meantime several thousand have received temporary health coverage and expedited work permits.
As I have argued previously, Canada needs to immediately renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement to plug the loopholes that allow asylum seekers to enter Canada and claim refugee status at irregular border crossings. Ottawa should embark upon this path even though it’s currently engaged in delicate talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Otherwise undesirable and potentially dangerous asylum seekers such as Sharif could enter the country and inflict harm on law-abiding Canadians.
To be clear, the majority of asylum seekers who successfully enter Canada have absolutely no criminal background, or hard-working and make excellent Canadians. However, as the former refugee processing officials warns, "violent gang activity among the illegal and asylum seeker classes is very evident in the US. And some may be already or become radicalized and present a terrorist threat."
Now, Canadian Immigration Minster Ahmed Hussen says that “less then one percent” of the asylum seekers who crossed illegally this year have a serious criminal background. But few people are able to figure out how that calculation is possible when many cross without documentation. Hussen has also conceded that the current Liberal government has not sought to amend the STCA with the United States.