Americans revoking travel visas from visitors who plan to claim asylum in Canada

Another push factor for asylum seekers:

American authorities say an ongoing operation along their northern border has led them to revoke U.S.-issued travel visas for thousands of people, most of whom were headed to Canada to claim asylum.

Some, according to a U.S. State Department report, are associated with terrorist groups.

The revocations happened as part of what’s called Operation Northern Watch, which focuses on criminal activity such as visa fraud, human smuggling and terrorist threats at the Canada-U.S. border.

Since the operation began in January 2015, authorities have revoked approximately 2,400 visas that were issued from 85 different American diplomatic posts abroad.

“Although some suspects have committed crimes in the United States, the vast majority of the individuals referred through Operation Northern Watch are individuals intending to claim asylum in Canada or have already claimed asylum,” reads the annual report of the State Department’s diplomatic security service (DSS).

“Included in this group were individuals with ties to designated terrorist organizations.”

In an email, a U.S. State Department official told CBC News the DSS is unable to release information about the terrorist groups and any alleged ties people may have had with them.

The DSS also would not specify how many of the revoked visas belonged to people headed to Canada.

“When speaking to law enforcement, some of the identified subjects admitted that they either attempted to claim asylum in Canada or stated that it was their intention to claim asylum in Canada. For others, the diplomatic security service had reason to believe that they planned to claim asylum in Canada,” wrote the official.

The DSS says every prospective traveller to the United States undergoes extensive security screening but that in some cases “derogatory information” surfaces after someone enters the country.

In late October, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told CBC News how Canadian officials had identified trends where documents identified from certain U.S. embassies and consulates are being misused.

“We have asked them to go back upstream and examine the pattern of these travel documents being issued and how come the people to whom they were issued appear to have had no intention of staying in the United States, but were simply using the documents as vehicles to get into the United States and then make a beeline for the Canadian border,” he said at the time.

Undermines narrative

National security expert Christian Leuprecht said Operation Northern Watch demonstrates how the U.S. understands and is acting on loopholes in its travel visa system.

“At the moment, the Americans realize there’s a Canadian dimension to this,” said Leuprecht, who teaches at Queen’s University and the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

Leuprecht said the annual report also undermines the long-standing narrative that people with ties to terrorist organizations easily enter Canada and head to the United States.

“There’s not really much of a problem in terms of people coming from Canada to the U.S., certainly not since 9/11, because of all the measures we’ve put in place. But we continue to have a challenge with people who are inadmissible and who have ties to illegal organizations, who find their way to the United States and then make their way to Canada,” he explained.

Karine Côté-Boucher, an assistant professor at the University of Montreal criminology school, cautions that terrorist ties aren’t always as scary as they sound.

“What are those ties? To know someone or [be] related to [someone], is sometimes enough to put you on a terrorist watch list. We have kids in Canada who are on no-fly lists right now,” she said.

Côté-Boucher added that just because someone used criminal means to enter Canada, does not mean they intend to do harm.

“Do they have criminal intent? That’s different, right? That’s a different question. There’s nothing in there that suggests to me that people have criminal intent in Canada,” she explained.

Travel visa harmonization

But Leuprecht believes, given the ongoing pattern of human migration, that it’s time for North American leaders to take a co-ordinated approach to travel visas to prevent people from abusing the travel visa system.

After all, he said, Canada and the U.S. already share data on land, sea and air ports of entry.

“We probably need to start sharing data on people who request visas into North America, show that we can jointly assess whether the claims that people are making and the intelligence people are providing are effective, because we can see that people are trying to exploit the travel regime,” he said.

For her part though, Côté-Boucher said she can’t see a good reason to give up sovereignty over who gets to come to Canada. She explained how she feels Canada’s tight border control mechanisms are partly responsible for the rise in irregular border crossings by migrants who are looking for a safe place to live.

“We have introduced so many border control mechanisms in North America right now that we have forced people to go through human smuggling networks, to go through visa fraud,” said Côté-Boucher.

As for Operation Northern Watch, the DSS initiative has already expanded beyond its offices in New York State to Minnesota and Detroit as well as its regional security offices in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto, where it works with Canadian authorities.

No one from the Canadian departments of Public Safety or Immigration responded to requests for more information about the operation.

via Americans revoking travel visas from visitors who plan to claim asylum in Canada – Politics – CBC News

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Immigration Minister warns Haitian border-crossers that Canada will probably reject them

Latest numbers (and yes, breaking down the numbers by how they entered Canada is relevant given public debates):

With another influx of Haitian refugees from the U.S. in sight, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen is warning that Canada is not a viable option for them — and data released Wednesday by Ottawa backs him up on that.

The federal government has been on high alert since the Trump administration announced this week it will end its temporary residency permit program that has allowed 60,000 Haitians to stay in the United States. Haitian migrants have until July 2019 to return to their country.

On Wednesday, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada released data on the outcomes of the 1,314 asylum decisions made involving those who crossed unguarded points along the border with the United States from February to October. Of those, 941 were accepted and 373 rejected. Some other 258 claims were either abandoned or withdrawn. Almost 12,900 of the 14,470 refugee claims are still pending.

Haitians, who account for 6,304 or 44 per cent of those claims, were among those with the lowest acceptance rate, at 17 per cent. Only 29 of the 168 Haitian border-crossers were granted asylum after a hearing as of Oct. 31.

On Wednesday, Hussen cited the Haitians’ acceptance rate as 10 per cent, using the number of cases “finalized” as the base which included the 130 additional claims that were either abandoned or withdrawn from the system, instead of just the total positive and negative decisions rendered by a refugee judge.

“Coming to Canada first of all has to be done through regular channels, and secondly the asylum system is only for people who are in genuine need of protection,” Hussen told reporters. “It’s not for everyone.”

Critics question the timing of the release of the data as well as the refugee board collection of data by the means asylum-seekers arrived.

“It’s questionable why they are pulling out these claims based on where and how they entered Canada,” said Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “The information is not relevant to their claims.”

via Immigration Minister warns Haitian border-crossers that Canada will probably reject them | Toronto Star

Québec ne craint pas une nouvelle vague de ressortissants haïtiens

We shall see:

Le gouvernement Couillard ne craint pas une nouvelle vague de ressortissants haïtiens massés aux frontières pour revendiquer le statut de demandeur d’asile au Canada. La décision annoncée lundi par l’administration Trump de mettre fin à un programme d’assistance qui existait depuis 2010 n’est que la confirmation d’un geste déjà annoncé, a fait valoir David Heurtel, le ministre québécois de l’Immigration.

«Le gouvernement américain travaille avec le gouvernement fédéral là-dessus. On va tout faire pour limiter la surprise le plus possible», a-t-il souligné à l’entrée de la réunion du caucus des députés libéraux mardi midi. S’il y a une nouvelle vague à attendre, elle viendra des ressortissants d’Amérique centrale. «Il n’y a pas de décision de prise, mais on appréhende une décision américaine», a-t-il indiqué. Les échanges avec l’administration américaine permettent d’espérer que le Québec et le Canada seront mieux préparés que l’été dernier quand il a été débordé par les demandes des Haïtiens. Mais, «on ne s’attend pas à une nouvelle vague tout de suite», ajoute-t-il.

La décision américaine vise les Haïtiens qui avaient été acceptés aux États-Unis après le séisme de 2010. Leur statut est maintenu jusqu’à juillet 2019. Il reste du temps et le gouvernement américain est en contact avec celui d’Haïti pour qu’ils puissent retourner dans leur pays d’origine.

Le Québec travaille étroitement avec Ottawa dans ce dossier. Le ministre Heurtel se rendra à une réunion fédérale provinciale à Ottawa jeudi.

Lundi, l’administration Trump a tiré un trait sur un programme temporaire de résidence qui a fait entrer et travailler aux États unis environ 60 000 Haïtiens. C’était une mesure humanitaire au lendemain du puissant séisme de 2010.

via Québec ne craint pas une nouvelle vague de ressortissants haïtiens | Denis Lessard | Politique québécoise

Canada on alert as U.S. announces end to temporary resident status for Haitians

Revealing insights on just how hard it is to combat social media messages (MP Dubourg’s comments):

A decision by the Trump administration to end a temporary residency permit program that has allowed almost 60,000 Haitians to live and work in the United States has the Canadian government on alert for a potential new surge of asylum seekers at the border.

The Homeland Security Department said late Monday that conditions in Haiti have improved significantly, so the benefit will be extended one last time — until July 2019 — to give Haitians time to prepare to return home.

Haitians were placed on notice earlier this year, and, few months later, waves of people began crossing illegally into Canada from the U.S. to claim asylum, catching the Liberals off guard when the crowds began to number more than 200 people a day.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said while Canada remains an “open and welcoming country to people seeking refuge,” anyone entering Canada must do so “through the proper channels.”

“Entering irregularly is not a ‘free ticket’ into Canada,”‘ Hursh Jaswa said late Monday.

“There are rigorous rules to be followed and the same robust assessment process applies. Those who are determined to be genuinely at risk, are welcomed. Those who are determined not to be in need of Canada’s protection, are removed.”

“We’re following it very carefully,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said, adding the physical apparatus required for the RCMP and border guards to deal with an influx is in place, as are contingency plans for a variety of “what if” scenarios.

The surge this summer prompted an outreach campaign to Haitian communities in the U.S. to counter misinformation about Canada’s immigration program circulating through social and traditional media channels and blamed for some of the new arrivals.

The misinformation — and the government campaign to counter it — continue.

Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg said that the recent announcement that Canada will accept close to one million immigrants over the next three years ended up as a story in the Haitian press about Canada opening its doors to a million immigrants this year. It was framed as proof Haitians were welcome.

Dubourg said he called the paper two weeks ago to clear things up but not before he realized the story had been shared hundreds of times on Facebook.

He said there is a great deal of uncertainty in the Haitian community, but the message needs to get out that Canada isn’t necessarily a default option. He’ll be taking that to New York on Tuesday in his second trip to the U.S. for outreach purposes.

“I’m there to inform them: be careful before you make a decision,” he said in an interview Monday.

Dubourg, who is Haitian, will also be trying to clear up a misconception that asylum is simple to obtain in Canada.

He said statistics he has seen suggest the acceptance rate for Haitians who arrived over the summer now sits at 10 per cent, down from about 50 per cent previously. The Immigration and Refugee Board was unable to immediately confirm that number.

via Canada on alert as U.S. announces end to temporary resident status for Haitians – Politics – CBC News

Why We Need to Talk About Migration and Human Security: Khalid Koser — Refugees Deeply

Had a recent opportunity to hear Koser speak and this interview is worth reading:

WHEN MOST POLITICAL leaders talk about migration and security, they usually refer to threats rather than opportunities.

Khalid Koser, the executive director of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), a Geneva-based public-private fund supporting local prevention of radicalization around the world, believes that’s back-to-front. Migration is not only beneficial to societies and economies, Koser says, but can also help prevent violent extremism.

“If there is a link between violent extremism and migration, it is that violent extremism is driving people from their homes, not that people are coming to our shores to commit violent extremism,” he said. “It’s so obvious that it shouldn’t need to be said, but it does need to be said.”

Koser, who cochairs the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Migration and is editor of the Journal of Refugee Studies, spoke to Refugees Deeply about the need for a new approach to policymaking on migration and security.

Refugees Deeply: To start with, some definitions: Often in discussions about migration and security, migration seems to become a code word for “Muslim migrants” and security a code word for “terrorism.” How would you define the key questions for policymakers on migration and security?

Khalid Koser: One of the key challenges is to overcome some of these generalizations and be a little bit more specific. There’s around 232 million international migrants in the world. Most people move perfectly safely to work and benefit the economies and societies where they have arrived. Getting some perspective and definitions are important. The population where we should be slightly concerned is irregular migrants – people who either enter countries without authorization or stay on without authorization, such as overstaying a visa.

On security, all of the attention in the past couple of years has been on national security, terrorism, extremism and crime. There is an alternative concept, human security, which is about people’s lives and people’s livelihoods. If you apply that then it’s quite clear that the real security concern is that a large number of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are facing human security challenges, whether because they’re fleeing persecution, dying in transit or facing discrimination in their new country. The real security debate is about human security, but that has been overwhelmed by a national security lens.

Refugees Deeply: What evidence is there on the national security dimensions of irregular migration?

Koser: There is limited evidence because almost by definition irregular migrants are hard to track down. But there is no evidence that irregular migrants are any more inclined toward criminality or terrorism than nationals. Having said that, we need to understand that irregular migration is a challenge. It’s a challenge to sovereignty: A state needs to know who’s entering its country and who’s doing what inside the country. There’s no doubt that there are certain groups of irregular migrants in certain cities that are committing crimes, whether it’s pickpocketing or fraud or petty crime. But overall the data suggests that criminality, and absolutely extremism and terrorism, are a homegrown issue more than an imported issue.

This debate’s become polarized. Some people, especially advocates, just won’t even discuss the link between migration and security because they think it’s too risky – we’re already demonizing migrants and to even suggest they’re on a path to criminality is unfair. Others are pretty hard core and risk thinking that all migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are somehow criminally minded. Of course, the truth is somewhere in between.

We do need to confront the fact that there are small groups who are criminalized who may, in some cases, become violent extremists – and understand why. Is it to do with their nature, their migrant experience or the conditions that they find themselves in once they arrive? We’ve avoided doing that research because of nervousness that to even have that discussion is dangerous. I understand why, but I think we need to because if we don’t, then people who are less objective will.

Refugees Deeply: How does integration intersect with security, both national security and human security?

Koser: Again I see lots of misperceptions. The big mistake is to suggest that because an important but small number of people have become foreign terrorist fighters, that immigration has failed in Europe. Integration in Europe has been immensely successful. Millions upon millions of people have come to Europe and flourished and helped our economies greatly.

If there is a weakness in the way we’ve approached integration, it’s seeing it as a one-way process – that it’s up to the state, and to an extent citizens, to integrate migrants. We need to recognize that this is a two-way street. The state and citizens have responsibilities, but so do migrants. For too long we haven’t had that slightly difficult discussion. But we shouldn’t be nervous about holding people accountable.

via Why We Need to Talk About Migration and Human Security — Refugees Deeply

Unable to find work, many Syrian refugees reluctantly turn to social assistance – Nova Scotia

Not unexpected. Takes many refugees longer to establish themselves:

For their first year after landing in Canada, refugees are supported by either the federal government or private groups. But that support has ended for most Syrian refugees, and many of those unable to find jobs have turned to provincial social assistance.

Just shy of 1,500 Syrian refugees landed in Nova Scotia between November 2015 and July this year. Of those, more than half — 894 adults and children — were on income assistance as of late September, according to the province’s Department of Community Services.

Syrian refugees represent about two per cent of the total number of Nova Scotians receiving such benefits. Income assistance in Nova Scotia includes $620 a month for shelter for a family of three or more, and an additional $275 per adult and $133 per child each month for personal expenses. Families may also qualify for the Canada child benefit program.

The problem for many refugees who haven’t found work is a lack of English-language skills. Another is having Syrian work or educational credentials that aren’t recognized in Canada.

via Unable to find work, many Syrian refugees reluctantly turn to social assistance – Nova Scotia – CBC News

ICYMI – Demandeurs d’asile: Québec a consacré 21 millions en aide de dernier recours

The impact on Quebec of increased numbers of asylum seekers:

Le budget consacré à l’aide gouvernementale pour les demandeurs d’asile va faire un bond important cette année par rapport aux années précédentes, selon les données recueillies par La Presse canadienne.

Déjà, Québec a dépensé près de 21 millions de dollars en huit mois pour l’aide financière de dernier recours destinée aux demandeurs d’asile. À ce montant s’ajouteront d’ici la fin de l’année les dépenses effectuées par le gouvernement en santé, en éducation et pour l’hébergement des personnes.

Entre janvier et août 2017, la province a versé 20 930 584 de dollars en aide sociale aux ménages qui comptent un demandeur d’asile. À titre comparatif, Québec avait débloqué 18,6 millions pour ces prestataires en 2016, et 18,9 millions en 2015.

Une compilation des dépenses est actuellement en cours au gouvernement. Elle sera transmise au ministère de l’Immigration prochainement dans le cadre d’un processus de reddition de comptes, a appris La Presse canadienne.

Au cours des derniers mois, selon le ministre de l’Immigration, David Heurtel, plus de 10 000 personnes, dont la vaste majorité sont d’origine haïtienne, ont franchi la frontière depuis les États-Unis pour demander asile au Québec après que le président Donald Trump eut menacé de les renvoyer dans leur pays.

Seulement qu’en août, 5530 personnes ont traversé la frontière canado-américaine, près du poste frontalier Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

En attente

Dans son Plan d’immigration déposé à l’Assemblée nationale à la fin octobre, le ministre soulignait que la plupart de ces personnes ne font pas partie des cibles d’admission du Québec pour 2018, puisqu’elles sont en attente d’un statut du gouvernement fédéral. Québec prévoit admettre entre 2500 et 2800 réfugiés l’an prochain.

via Demandeurs d’asile: Québec a consacré 21 millions en aide de dernier recours | Caroline Plante | National

How Canada could prepare for potential new wave of asylum seekers: Anglin and House

Former CPC staffers offer their suggestions on how to stem asylum seekers (for Anglin’s earlier piece, see How Canada can restore order to its immigration system: Anglin), essentially having the RCMP escort asylum seekers to ports of entry, where the safe-third country agreement applies and they can be returned to the US (rather than helping them with their luggage).

Canada’s reputation as a refugee-protecting country was further burnished last Wednesday, when Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced a multi-year plan that will see over 137,000 refugees and other persons deemed in need of protection settling in Canada by 2020. And, after a fraught few months, Canada is enjoying something of a respite from the illegal border crossings we saw over the summer. According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), by the end of the summer, they were processing “only” 50 to 100 claims a day, down from 1,200 a day earlier that same season.

Whether this is a trend or a pause, only hindsight will tell. But neither the generosity of Hussen’s plan nor the current respite should make us complacent about the problem of what to do about unplanned arrivals at the Canada-U.S. border. In fact, recent media reports in Canada and the U.S. predict that the issue could flare up again in the coming months.

Currently, there are 250,000 Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans living in the United States without valid visas who face reviews of their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the coming months—four times the number of Haitians who received notice earlier this year that their TPS would be lifted, prompting the mass migration north to Canada this past summer. On Nov. 6, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security decided that the Nicaraguans can be removed safely, while postponing for now a decision with respect to the Hondurans and saying nothing about the Salvadorans. Then there are the 800,000 beneficiaries of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, whose status remains in limbo.

To his credit, after first appearing to invite asylum seekers to try their luck in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now seems to accept the problem it would pose to Canada if populations living illegally in the U.S. were to come north, rather than returning south to their home countries. Walking back his earlier message in a late-summer press conference in Montreal, he said: “Canada is an opening and welcoming society. But let me be clear: we are also a country of laws. There are rigorous immigration and customs rules that will be followed. Make no mistake.”

That’s the right message, even if it was belatedly delivered. But to be credible, it must be backed by action. Otherwise, migrant networks—including for-profit operations—will quickly notice that, despite tough talk, Canada is still an easy mark for opportunistic economic migrants. And so far, three months after Trudeau’s change of tone, there is little evidence of change on the ground.

The problem is the gap in enforcement created by the 2001 Safe Third Country Agreement. This agreement allows Canada to turn back an asylum-seeker coming from the United States who failed to make his claim first in that country, but only if he arrives at an officially designated port of entry. This gives asylum-seekers a strong incentive to simply avoid official ports of entry, crossing the border illegally along back roads and across farmers’ fields.

The government should use the RCMP more effectively to close gaps in our porous border. Just as the U.S. has Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to police its borders, in Canada, the RCMP has the mandate to patrol between ports of entry run by CBSA. Mounties serving in this capacity are tasked with ensuring Canada’s immigration laws are observed and the border is secure. You’d hardly know this, though, from the widely shared images of the RCMP politely assisting asylum-seekers with their luggage. That bellhop service isn’t required by the law, but it has become a government policy—one that should change.

Since the spike in illegal crossings this summer, several ideas have been advanced about how to protect the border. But before we reinvent the wheel, engage new resources, or chart new legal territory, there is something the government could do right now—with no new resources or laws—to defend our border: Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has the authority under Section 5 of the RCMP Act to direct the Mounties to respectfully but firmly stop migrants from illegally entering Canada.

At the border itself, the RCMP could direct migrants to the nearest Canadian port of entry via a route on the U.S. side of the border. If necessary, the RCMP, authorized as members of a joint Canada-U.S. Integrated Border Enforcement Team, could even escort them there personally. Once at a port of entry, the Safe Third Country Agreement would apply and most migrants would be returned to the U.S. to make asylum claims there.

This would be consistent with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of 2001, in which Parliament directed that RCMP officers cannot accept a claim for refugee protection (only a CBSA officer or a designated employee of Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada can do that). That decision frees the RCMP to meaningfully protect the border between ports of entry, reestablishing control over the boundary between our two countries. In extreme cases, that could mean brief detention of the rare aggressive asylum seeker for transport to the nearest Canadian port of entry—but as incentives to run the border build, this would allow the RCMP to reestablish control over the boundary, meaning physically obstructing people will become unnecessary, and ensure that our border means something.

Canadians are generous and welcoming people, but our support for high and now increasing levels of immigration, including refugees, goes hand-in-hand with a belief that the immigration process is orderly and lawful. When Canadians feel their generosity is being abused, goodwill evaporates, as we saw in the backlash against the arrivals of the Ocean Lady and Sun Sea migrant vessels in 2009 and 2010.

If we are to maintain a political consensus in favour of current levels of legal immigration, the Prime Minister must show that his commitment to enforcing the law against illegal migration is more than a rhetorical feint. The government needs to send a clear message that we will enforce our laws and defend the sanctity of our border. And it needs to do so now, in this respite—before winter conditions again increase the danger to northbound migrants.

via How Canada could prepare for potential new wave of asylum seekers – Macleans.ca

MPs prepare to head south to dissuade asylum seekers in U.S. from heading north once protected status expires

Part of the toolkit integrated into a social media strategy:

Members of Parliament are planning trips to the U.S. in the coming weeks to try to stem a potential new flow of asylum seekers to Canada.

Haitians who have been living in the U.S. under temporary protected status since the 2010 earthquake are facing potential deportation as of Nov. 22 unless the U.S. Department of Homeland Security renews their status, which it is not expected to do.

“We don’t know what the U.S. will do to remove those people so we are doing messaging and using social media,” said Emmanuel Dubourg, Liberal member of Parliament for the Bourassa riding in Quebec.

Dubourg said he and two other MPs will be going to the U.S. in the next two weeks to try to dissuade asylum seekers from Haiti, Africa, Central America and elsewhere from trying their luck in Canada in the same way that thousands of others have in the past year: by walking across the U.S.-Canada border at unofficial crossing points and applying for asylum once they get to Canada.

The RCMP has intercepted more than 15,000 asylum seekers crossing illegally between official ports of entry since January, the bulk of them in Quebec during the months of July through September.

Haitian-born Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg will be travelling to New York next week to meet with the Haitian immigrants who are likely to lose their temporary protected status later this month and whom he fears could try to cross into Canada illegally. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

“The main reason is to tell them we have a robust immigration law and that they should use the right channels to come to Canada instead of crossing in between the borders,” Dubourg said of his planned trip.

Canadian diplomats from a dozen consulates are also reaching out to non-governmental organizations, politicians and community groups, with a special focus on New York, Florida and California.

The government has recently issued blunt warnings that crossing into Canada illegally is not a free ticket to a new life. The Canada Border Services Agency has posted signs near irregular entry points to warn migrants against making an illegal crossing.

Canadian officials are also using social media to counter fake information that could be encouraging migrants to enter Canada. This was a significant factor in the surge of Haitians attempting crossings this summer so the government has started publishing videos online in Creole to push back against misinformation.

A Creole language pamphlet for Haitians in the U.S. spelling out legal ways to apply for asylum in Canada and advising against crossing illegally. Dubourg brought it with him when he visited the U.S. in the summer to meet with the Haitian community. (Emmanuel Dubourg)

Dubourg’s efforts will focus on the Haitian community in New York City, he said.

via MPs prepare to head south to dissuade asylum seekers in U.S. from heading north once protected status expires – Politics – CBC News

Similarities in Nigerian asylum claims based on sexual orientation have Legal Aid Ontario asking questions

Good comparative analysis to spot anomalies:

Nigerian asylum seekers in Canada are making so many similar claims based on sexual orientation that Legal Aid Ontario is worried some claims may be fabricated.

Jawad Kassab, who leads the refugee and immigration program at Legal Aid Ontario, said the agency has identified an “unusual” pattern in sexual orientation claims filed by Nigerian refugee seekers this year.

He said the agency has written to five lawyers who represent a “high volume” of those cases and asked if they can help explain what’s behind it. He would not name the lawyers.

Kassab said he is concerned that if claims are fabricated, refugees with legitimate claims might have a harder time getting the help they need.

“It galls me because of the potential impact that it could have on the refugee system and the Canadian public’s perception of refugee claimants and refugees in a very vulnerable time globally,” he said.

Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same-sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law on Jan. 7, 2014. The law allows for up to 10 years in prison for belonging to a gay rights groups and up to 14 years imprisonment for engaging in homosexual behaviour. (Tiksa Negeri/Reuters)

The Nigerian government outlawed same-sex relationships in 2014. Arbitrary arrests, extortion and mob violence against those believed to be homosexual have become more common since then, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization.

Lawyers who represent Nigerian refugees say that may explain the recent spike in Nigerian refugee applications based on sexual orientation.

“It’s almost like a war zone for homosexuals,” said immigration lawyer Richard Odeleye. “You cannot expect people to put up with that, and they have to leave.”

Odeleye, who said he received one of the letters from Legal Aid Ontario, says he finds the suggestion that lawyers may be coaching clients to fabricate their stories “insulting” and “discriminatory.”

About 90 per cent of the refugee claims made by Nigerians in Canada are heard in Toronto.

Kassab said Legal Aid Ontario, which covers the legal costs for most refugee claims heard in the province, became suspicious after a routine review of refugee applications showed that 60 to 70 per cent of about 600 Nigerian claims made in Ontario since April were based on persecution because of sexual orientation.

Kassab described that number as “high, relative to other countries.”

Kassab said the stories often involved a married person whose spouse discovered them with a same-sex partner. The married couple then reconciled and they and the same-sex partner all applied for refugee status in Canada over fears of persecution in Nigeria.

via Similarities in Nigerian asylum claims based on sexual orientation have Legal Aid Ontario asking questions – Canada – CBC News