Australia: Being cruel to refugees doesn’t strengthen multiculturalism

I find Minns somewhat over the top. There is a correlation between confidence in immigration and border management, to deny this is counter to the Canadian experience.

This does not justify some of the anti-immigration and anti-refugee rhetoric (and some of the Australian government’s initiatives) but denying any link and not taking border management seriously is another matter:

There are now dozens of statements from United Nation bodies, condemning Australia’s refugee policies as harsh, inhumane and detrimental to the health and safety of the refugees.

In the face of this criticism, over the last two years, the Australian government has developed a new rationale for this extremely harsh treatment. They now claim that the measures used against boat arrivals – mandatory detention, permanent exclusion and being sent (now for five years for some) to Nauru and Manus Island – are, paradoxically, the very things that reinforce public support for immigration and multiculturalism.

The Prime Minister’s website quotes him as saying that: “Strong borders allow the government to maintain public trust in community safety, respect for diversity and support for our immigration and humanitarian programs.”

His blog reiterates the message: “Strong borders are the foundation of our high-immigration multicultural success”. Peter Dutton made the same point in a speech in London last year.

In fact, government figures have shown few reservations about wading into Pauline Hanson’s territory when they have felt it is in their political interest to do so. In November 2016, Dutton claimed that Malcolm Fraser made a mistake in allowing Lebanese Muslims into the country – not fundamentally different to Hanson’s call in the election that year for a total ban on Muslim immigration. In the same year he said that “illiterate and innumerate” refugees would take Australian jobs or “languish” on the dole and Medicare. Hanson’s 1996 maiden speech said that “immigration must be halted in the short term so that our dole queues are not added to by, in many cases, unskilled migrants not fluent in the English language.”

Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge suggested earlier this month that mulitculturalism is at risk unless tougher English-language tests are introduced for potential migrants. He argued that those from a non-English-speaking background are often concentrated “in particular suburbs… with a considerable absence of English being spoken or understood.” Again, Hanson, speaking then of Asian migrants, said that “they have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate.”

Last April Dutton introduced a bill to require permanent residents to wait four years, instead of one, to apply for citizenship. He plans to reintroduce it this year. It is another signal to the electorate that we should be suspicious and fearful of new arrivals. It is a move in the direction of Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, who are opposed to multiculturalism and want to extend the waiting time for permanent residents before applying for citizenship to ten years.

Both Turnbull and Dutton raced to condemn Sudanese youth gangs in Melbourne in January. Although the Federal government has no jurisdiction over the matter and despite the fact that crime in Victoria was down nearly 5 per cent in the year to last September, Dutton claimed that people were afraid to go out to restaurants. Again, fear is stoked, insecurity deepened and small, easily identifiable, non-Anglo groups blamed. In this soil, it is inevitable that broader hostility to immigration will grow – something that Tony Abbott, ever the opportunist, has noticed and taken advantage of with his call for deep cuts to immigration.

The claim that our government is staunchly defending a tolerant multiculturalism by taking necessarily harsh action against asylum seekers is difficult to sustain.

The international record on such action and its effect on the broader society is also informative. When the years spent in squalid refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and elsewhere finally became too much and exploded into large refugee flows into Europe in 2015 and 2016 some governments took brutal and exclusionary actions. Hungary sent troops to force refugees back from its border. Today its Prime Minister Viktor Orban rejects taking any refugees in coordination with other EU countries, calling them “Muslim invaders.”

The Polish Law and Justice Party fought and convincingly won the 2015 election on the basis that it would not accept even one Muslim refugee. In so doing it has legitimised racism and Islamophobia. As many as 60,000 took part in a march in Warsaw last November organised by a movement called “White Poland”. With banners such as “White Europe” and “Clean Blood” they outnumbered the official Independence Day celebrations.

In Austria, Sebastian Kurz became Chancellor late last year after campaigning on a hard anti-immigrant policy, including seizing money from asylum seekers to pay for the costs of their temporary accommodation. Now, he has joined in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ). Its leader, and now Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has continued the attack, calling for asylum seekers to be shut up in conditions which some have described as chillingly reminiscent of concentration camps. The party’s General Secretary Herbert Kickl has spoken of plans to create “camps” for refugees “to keep them concentrated in one place”.

The evidence from Europe is consistent with our experience in Australia. Right-wing populism, anti-immigrant sentiment, suspicion of and hostility to people simply because they are Muslim, cannot be effectively challenged by cruelty towards refugees. On the contrary, such refugee policies legitimise the fears on which that brand of politics thrives. These policies not only harm the refugees, they also harm the society in which we live.

There are alternatives to the current Australian refugee policy which do not amount to open borders. We know this is the case, because, in this country, we implemented many of these alternatives for decades very successfully. Thousands of Canberrans plan to march on this Palm Sunday to call for our leaders to do so again.

via Being cruel to refugees doesn’t strengthen multiculturalism


Canada vastly unprepared to process migrants and refugees

Latest numbers and update on impact of the change to first-come-first serve:

A small change marks a troubling time in our immigration system.

Overwhelmed by an endlessly ballooning backlog, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) recently ditched the 60-day timeline to process asylum claims. People wanting to claim asylum will now be processed on a “first-in, first-out” basis.

The 60-day rule was put into place by the previous Conservative government in 2012. It required officials at IRB to process asylum claimants in order of their designated country of origin. Moreover, decision makers within the board had to process claims within two months. A generous analysis would say those changes were meant to improve procedural efficiency. I am not a generous person.

At the same time that Canada was promising ease of access to foreign millionaires, it created massive procedural obstacles for refugees.

In 2015, a federal court concluded that the major elements, specifically the lack of access for those deemed to be from “safe countries” ( i.e. a safe Designated Country of Origin) was unconstitutional. Nonetheless, that program has remained largely in place.

The effect has been catastrophic.

In 2012, when the Designated Country of Origin program was instituted, less than 10,000 claims were rolling in. Starting in 2014, those numbers have grown substantially. So, too, has the backlog.

By the end of the last year, the backlog was as high as 43,000 cases. The organization had anticipated a backlog of 30,000. The average wait time is now 20 months for new claims. Thousands of much older cases have languished.

Some have waited for an answer for more than six years. The new first-in, first-out system has thrown an already-lengthy process into disarray. Thousands of scheduled hearings have been cancelled, reports the Star’s Nicholas Keung.

IRB spokesperson Anna Pape said, “(The board) must postpone recent referrals at this time due to the operational limitations.”

The change at IRB is necessary but, make no mistake, it’s a move made out of desperation. With inadequate resources, the board has performed a herculean feat.

They’ve put in place a two-year task force to sort through legacy cases. Early last year, they dabbled with the first-in, first-out system under its former leader Mario Dion.

Dion had been unequivocal, saying to CBC News in July, “I am afraid the way things are at this point we will need additional resources … because there is a limit to how much you can stretch one person’s time.” He saw no hope in meeting the demands on the system, saying it was “essentially impossible to close the gap using existing resources.”

Money was a major hindrance, said Dion to the Canadian Press: “Efficiency has increased significantly, but there is no way we can deal with 30,000 cases when we’re funded for about 17,000.”

The most recent federal budget does lay out some money for the board but it lags behind what is needed. There is an additional $12 million in legal aid support for asylum claimants. Lawyers for refugees often tell me that a major obstacle is the lack of representation available to claimants.

Significantly, the budget allocates $173.2 million dollars for security operations at the border and for processing at IRB. Of that, $74 million dollars will be spent over the next two years on irregular migration.

There are bright spots within the asylum system. Funding for Yazidi women and girls fleeing ISIS’s terror remains in place. Canada recently stepped up to accept 1,845 refugees of 30,000 African asylum claimants that Israel is planning to mass deport. Canada’s move isn’t game-changing, but for those few, it is life saving.

Nonetheless, without an international action plan, the global migrant crisis will continue unabated. Simmering global hostility to migrants — refugees and non-refugees alike — looks likely to end up at Canada’s ports, airports and borders. For example, rumors and the eventual fact of the Trump administration’s rescinding of Temporary Protected Status is responsible for the Haitian migrants who have walked across the border.

The ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship is aware of the need to pour attention and resources into the board. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has received an interim report on the IRB and a full report is expected later this year.

More migrants will come here and we need to be ready.

via Canada vastly unprepared to process migrants and refugees | Toronto Star

An obscure State Department policy change is likely to send immigrants to their death – ThinkProgress

Valid points – the report was viewed as one of the benchmark reports in this regard:

The State Department has “been ordered to pare back passages in a soon-to-be-released annual report on global human rights that traditionally discuss women’s reproductive rights and discrimination,” Politico reported earlier this week. This change is likely to have a devastating impact on many foreign nationals seeking asylum in the United States after facing persecution, or even the threat of death, in their home nation.

A trio of federal immigration laws and human rights treaties permit individuals, who otherwise would be subject to deportation, to remain in the United States — if they are likely to face certain kinds of persecution in their home country. An immigrant seeking asylum, for example, may remain in the United States if they can establish that they have a “well-founded fear of future persecution” in their country of origin. Similarly, under Article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the United States agrees not to “expel, return, or extradite” a foreign national if it is “more likely than not that they would be tortured if removed to a specific country.”

Immigrants seeking asylum or similar protections often rely heavily on the State Department’s annual human rights reports to establish that their fear of persecution or torture in their home nation is well-founded. For example: The 2016 State Department report on the northwestern African nation of Mauritania warns that members of the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement, an anti-slavery organization that advocates for the rights of Mauritania’s Haratine ethnic group, were arrested and tortured there. This report could provide members of this organization (or even members of Mauritania’s Haratine minority more generally) who arrive in the United States with the evidence they need to be able to stay.

The next round of human rights reports, however, reportedly will strip down passages “that describe societal views on family planning, including how much access women have to contraceptives and abortion,” as well as a “broader section that chronicles racial, ethnic and sexual discrimination,” as Politico reports. These changes are “believed to have been ordered by a top aide to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.”

It is unclear just how drastically these reports will be pared down, but the State Department should understand the stakes if it chooses to water down its human rights reports.

A major reason why asylum seekers must rely on State Department reports is that the U.S. government is one of only a handful of entities capable of compiling such information in such a comprehensive way. If the State Department will no longer provide complete information on subjects such as ethnic discrimination, female genital mutilation, anti-LGBTQ persecution, or similar topics, then it is unlikely that many immigrants will be able to find this information from alternative sources.

Though some of the slack may be picked up by human rights groups such as Amnesty International, there will no longer be a single, comprehensive source where immigration attorneys can go to demonstrate the kinds of persecution that occur in many foreign nations. Many immigrants may be unable to find any reliable source demonstrating that the persecution they face in their home nation is real. Worse, some immigration judges may even conclude that conditions have improved in nations with widespread abuses because the State Department reports no longer mention such abuse.

And when that happens, it is almost certain that innocent people will be sent back to oppressive regimes to be imprisoned, tortured, or killed.

via An obscure State Department policy change is likely to send immigrants to their death – ThinkProgress

Israel agrees to halt deportations of Canada-bound asylum-seekers


Ottawa has reached a last-minute deal with Israel to suspend the deportation of asylum-seekers who currently are waiting for resettlement to Canada.

Israel is set to begin deporting some 37,000 asylum-seekers, the majority of them Sudanese and Eritreans, in April after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government issued them expulsion notices.

The asylum-seekers, most of them deemed by Israel to be economic migrants rather than refugees in need of protection, can either leave voluntarily for a “safe” African country and receive $3,500 and a plane ticket, or face imprisonment.

The Canadian government is under the gun to resettle 1,845 of the African refugees whose sponsorship applications are currently in process, some for years.

“Canada does not support policies of mass deportations of asylum-seekers. The rights of asylum-seekers and refugees are laid out in the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, of which Israel is a signatory,” said Adam Austen, press secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“As the country that resettles the highest number of African asylum-seekers from Israel, we are in direct contact with the Government of Israel to convey Canada’s concerns about the situation.”

A spokesperson for Immigration Canada confirmed it has reached an agreement with Israeli authorities to allow the Canada-bound asylum-seekers to remain in the country and not be jailed until their sponsorships are finalized.

“We ask that sponsors advise the department should any of their applicants be issued deportation or detention notices,” said Faith St. John. “Our office in Tel Aviv has dedicated resources to deal with the applications.”

Italy Tavor, a spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa, said the country recognizes the significance of the current “migration situation” and has allocated dozens of new staff positions to streamline and expedite the asylum determination process.

“Israel does not hesitate to grant refugee status when required, and follows a procedure consistent with the criteria and standards of international law, laid down by the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees,” said Tavor in an email to the Star.

“With that said, the data about the migrants who have entered Israel illegally indicates that 70 to 80 per cent of the migrants are of working age (19-40 years old) and that there are about five times more men than women. These numbers are consistent with a population that is composed mostly of economic migrants.”

Jenny Miedema of the Dufferin County’s Compass Community Church, which is sponsoring 14 African refugees through Tel Aviv, said sending asylum-seekers to third countries — namely Rwanda and Uganda, according to Israeli media reports — remains an issue of concern.

“They will be dropped off at a brand new country, with a brand new language, with no legal status,” said Miedema. “These countries are no safe haven. By sending them there, it becomes somebody else’s problem.”

Joanne Beach, director of justice and compassion for the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, which has a sponsorship agreement with Ottawa, said Canada must do its utmost to expedite the resettlement of refugees.

“The alliance is still concerned for the welfare of those at risk of deportation in Israel who do not have applications currently in process. We are appealing to churches to consider entering into a sponsorship agreement or partnering with a Canadian Jewish organization to help those at imminent risk of deportation from Israel,” said Beach.

“We pray that sufficient resources are put in place (by Ottawa) to reduce backlogs and processing times.”

via Israel agrees to halt deportations of Canada-bound asylum-seekers | Toronto Star

A Lesson on Immigration From Pablo Neruda – The New York Times

Interesting vignette from history, reflecting ongoing ideological debates:

Chile, like numerous other countries, has been debating whether to welcome migrants — mostly from Haiti, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela — or to keep them out. Although only half a million immigrants live in this nation of 17.7 million, right-wing politicians have stoked anti-immigrant sentiment, opposed the increased rates of immigration in the past decade and directed bile especially against Haitian immigrants.

Immigration was a major issue in elections here in November and December. The winner was Sebastián Piñera, a 68-year-old center-right billionaire who was president from 2010 to 2014 and will take over in March. Mr. Piñera blamed immigrants for delinquency, drug trafficking and organized crime. He benefited from the support of José Antonio Kast, a far-right politician who has been campaigning to build physical barriers along the borders with Peru and Bolivia to stop immigrants.

Chileans aren’t alone in witnessing growing xenophobia and nativism, but we would do well to remember our own history, which offers a model for how to act when we are confronted with strangers seeking sanctuary.

On Aug. 4, 1939, the Winnipeg set sail for Chile from the French port of Pauillac with more than 2,000 refugees who had fled their Spanish homeland.

A few months earlier, Gen. Francisco Franco — aided by Mussolini and Hitler — had defeated the forces of the democratically elected government of Spain. The fascists unleashed a wave of violence and murder.

Among the hundreds of thousands of desperate supporters of the Spanish Republic who had crossed the Pyrenees to escape that onslaught were the men, women and children who would board the Winnipeg and arrive a month later at the Chilean port of Valparaíso.

The person responsible for their miraculous escape was Pablo Neruda, who, at the age of 34, was already considered Chile’s greatest poet. His prestige in 1939 was indeed significant enough for him to be able to persuade Chile’s president, Pedro Aguirre Cerda, that it was imperative for their small country to offer asylum to some of the mistreated Spanish patriots rotting in French internment camps.

Not only would this set a humanitarian example, Neruda said, but it would also provide Chile with much needed foreign expertise and talent for its own development. The president agreed to authorize some visas, but the poet himself would have to find the funds for the costly fares of those émigrés as well as for food and lodging during their first six months in the country. And Neruda, once he was in France coordinating the operation, needed to vet the émigrés to ensure they possessed the best technical skills and unimpeachable moral character.

It took considerable courage for President Aguirre Cerda to welcome the Spanish refugees to Chile. The country was poor, still reeling from the long-term effects of the Depression, with a high rate of unemployment — and had just suffered a devastating earthquake in Chillán that had killed 28,000 people and left many more injured and homeless.

An unrelenting nativist campaign by right-wing parties and their media, sensing a chance to attack the president’s Popular Front government, painted the prospective asylum seekers as “undesirables”: rapists, criminals, anti-Christian agitators whose presence, according to one chauvinistic editorial in Chile’s leading conservative paper, would be “incompatible with social tranquillity and the best manners.”

Neruda realized that it would be cheaper to charter a ship and fill it up with the refugees than to send them, one family at a time, to Chile. The Winnipeg was available but since it was a cargo boat it had to be refurbished to accommodate some 2,000 passengers with berths, canteens for meals, an infirmary, a nursery for the very young and, of course, latrines.

While volunteers from the French Communist Party worked around the clock to ready the vessel, Neruda was gathering donations from all over Latin America — and from friends like Pablo Picasso — to finance the increasingly exorbitant enterprise. Time was short: Europe was bracing for war, and bureaucrats in Santiago and Paris were sabotaging the effort. With only half the cash in hand one month before the ship was set to sail, a group of American Quakers unexpectedly offered to supply the rest of the required funds.

Through it all, Neruda was fueled by his love for Spain and his compassion for the victims of fascism, including one of his best friends, the poet Federico García Lorca, who had been murdered by a fascist death squad in 1936.

As Chile’s consul during the early years of the Spanish Republic, Neruda had witnessed the bombardment of Madrid. The destruction of that city he loved and the assault upon culture and freedom were to mark him for the rest of his life and drastically change his literary priorities.

After the fall of the Republic, he declared, “I swear to defend until my death what has been murdered in Spain: the right to happiness.” No wonder he proclaimed the Winnipeg to have been his “most beautiful poem” as it steamed away — without him or his wife, as they did not want to occupy space that was better occupied by those whose lives were in danger.

And when that magnificent, gigantic, floating “poem” of his, after a hazardous voyage, finally reached Valparaíso, its passengers — despite the protests of right-wing nationalists and Nazi sympathizers — were given a welcome befitting heroes.

Awaiting the penniless survivors of Franco’s legions was President Aguirre Cerda’s personal representative — his health minister, a young doctor named Salvador Allende. Cheering crowds amassed on the dock, singing Spanish songs of resistance, gathered to greet the refugees, some of whom already had jobs lined up.

The refugees who came ashore on the Winnipeg would go on to help fashion a more prosperous, open and inventive Chile. They included the historian Leopoldo Castedo, the book designer Mauricio Amster, the playwright and essayist José Ricardo Morales and the painters Roser Bru and José Balmes.

Almost 80 years later, those undesirables pose disturbing questions for us, both in Chile and elsewhere. Where are the presidents who welcome destitute refugees with open arms despite the most virulent slander against them? Where are the Nerudas of yesteryear, ready to launch ships like poems to defend the right to happiness?

via A Lesson on Immigration From Pablo Neruda – The New York Times

TPS solution for Haitians not a priority in immigration debate | Miami Herald

Implications for ongoing flows across the Canada US border:

The U.S. Senate isn’t seriously considering a path to permanent residency or citizenship for more than 300,000 Temporary Protected Status recipients as part of an immigration deal to keep 689,000 Dreamers from being deported.

Two senators involved in ongoing immigration talks, Florida Democrat Bill Nelson and Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, said there aren’t active serious discussions about the fate of TPS holders from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras.

“The bipartisan group is trying to get some consensus of what can pass that will protect the DACA Dreamers,” Nelson said. “What I expect is within two weeks we are going to get a DACA solution. I would hope it includes TPS, but if it messes up getting votes in order to pass the Dreamers, I think that would not be considered then and would be held for more comprehensive immigration.”

Flake said a proposal did exist at one point to take some visas from the diversity lottery and apply them to TPS recipients. But the idea, part of an immigration proposal by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was rejected by President Donald Trump.

TPS has been discussed at recent Senate immigration meetings, according to Flake, but the topic isn’t under serious consideration as Senate Democrats and Republicans try to negotiate an immigration proposal that will receive 60 votes in the upper chamber, along with the approval of the GOP-controlled House of Representatives and Trump.

“It’s been discussed but nothing firm,” Flake said, adding there’s “no serious discussion” about TPS.

The Senate stance on TPS comes after Trump reportedly blasted TPS recipients in a White House meeting, saying, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out,” and “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” — in reference to immigrants living and working legally in the United States under TPS and to making changes to the diversity lottery system.

Several senators, including Florida Republican Marco Rubio, have said in recent weeks that any immigration bill should focus on finding a solution for DACA recipients in exchange for stronger border security measures, though Trump has said he wants to end the diversity lottery and cut legal immigration as part of any deal to give DACA recipients and DACA-eligible unauthorized immigrants a path to citizenship. Trump’s proposal is a non-starter for most Democrats.

“Legal status for those currently in DACA & stronger Border Security has overwhelming support & is ideal starting point for Senate debate,” Rubio tweeted on Tuesday.

South Florida is home to the nation’s largest concentration of Haitians, along with a sizable number of Salvadorans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans.

Nelson said “you have to create a different kind of category” for current TPS recipients, because a mass exodus of 60,000 Haitians from the U.S. would have ripple effects on the economies of both South Florida and Haiti. Multiple bills that would provide a path to permanent residency or citizenship for some or all TPS recipients have been proposed in the House of Representatives, but a vote on any TPS bill isn’t imminent.

“In solving immigration problems you really have to also solve what are you doing with TPS because … there’s going to be cases where, for example Haiti, you can’t return 60,000 people all at once to Haiti,” Nelson said. “The economy of Haiti could not swallow that, but that’s more for immigration reform.”

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has signed on to multiple bills that would give TPS recipients a path to permanent citizenship and complained that most members of Congress were unaware of the issue. On Wednesday she said there would be more of an appetite to find a solution for TPS recipients if DACA recipients and DACA-eligible immigrants had already been protected from deportation by Congress.

“There just isn’t room in people’s hearts right now,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last month he would agree to debate and vote on an immigration bill in the Senate, though he didn’t agree on a specific proposal. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gave a lengthy speech on Wednesday opposing a massive budget deal that would keep the government open because “the package does nothing to advance bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers.”

The Department of Homeland Security canceled TPS for Haiti, El Salvador and Nicaragua in recent months and extended Honduras’ TPS designation until July in order to formulate a final decision. Nearly 60,000 Haitians, 200,000 Salvadorans, 2,500 Nicaraguans and potentially 57,000 Hondurans could be forced to leave the country in 2019 unless Congress passes legislation.

“I think that we really have to knuckle down and bring our nation into a 21st century immigration system. It’s ridiculous the way we are operating right now,” said Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., who has also proposed multiple bills to prevent TPS recipients from being deported.

“The lack of compassion, the demonization of immigrants, it’s not healthy for our country.”

via TPS solution for Haitians not a priority in immigration debate | Miami Herald

Gender persecution the top reason women seek asylum in Canada

More from the CBC analysis of IRB data (see Acceptance rate for asylum seekers in Canada at a 27-year high – Canada – CBC News):

A CBC News investigation reveals more than 15 per cent of female asylum seekers who arrived in this country in the past five years said they did so to escape persecution for being a woman. It’s the most common reason women seek refuge in Canada, ahead of religious, ethnic or political persecution.

Gender persecution includes practices such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation, as well as domestic abuse at the hands of a partner or family member, which accounted for half of the claims in the data obtained by CBC.

The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) decided on nearly 3,000 domestic violence claims between 2013 and 2017, accepting 58 per cent of them.

Claims based on domestic violence are, like all refugee claims, assessed based on two elements: the risk an individual faces and to what degree they can be protected in their home country, said Catherine Dauvergne, dean of the University of British Columbia’s Peter A. Allard Law School and an expert in refugee and migration law.

“In cases of domestic violence, or really any persecutory harm which happens in the private sphere, the analysis almost always ends up focusing on what kind of state protection is available,” she said.

“The high number of claims that you’re seeing in this dataset is really reflective of the lack of organized, regular, reliable, dependable protection for women in all sorts of places around the world.”Nigeria was the source of the highest number of gender-based claims from women, as well as domestic violence claims, specifically.

In many parts of Nigeria, people believe women should be subservient to men, said Comfort Ero, a Nigerian-Canadian author and women’s rights advocate.

A woman who goes to the police to report domestic abuse would typically be sent home, Ero said, and even chastised by police for betraying her husband.

via Gender persecution the top reason women seek asylum in Canada – Canada – CBC News

After the ‘Trump effect’ slowed illegal immigration, numbers rise again as Central Americans fear conditions at home

Good reporting of the fluctuations and the push factors:

Illegal crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border, after declining in early 2017, began an unexpected upturn last spring that only recently receded, according to new government figures.

The figures reflect the up-and-down nature of illegal immigration and are reminders that multiple factors — from politics to weather to conditions in home countries — influence who tries to come to the United States and when.

Apprehensions on the southern border in October 2016, a month before Donald Trump’s election, topped 66,000. After Trump’s victory, the number of migrants trying to enter the U.S. illegally reached a 17-year low.

Monthly apprehensions continued to drop into 2017, hitting 15,766 in April, when the downward trend reversed. Apprehensions rose each month to 40,513 in December. Migrant advocates said the “Trump effect” discouraging illegal immigration might be wearing off.

But last month, apprehensions decreased again. It’s not clear whether the post-holiday decrease is seasonal, or whether it will continue.

There were 35,822 migrants apprehended on the southern border in January, according to figures released Wednesday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That’s not as many as in December, but it’s more than were apprehended each month last February to October.



The number of families and unaccompanied children caught crossing the border, which rose nearly every month since last spring, also dropped slightly last month to 25,980, but remained more than twice April’s total, 11,127.

In releasing the numbers Wednesday, Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton noted the apprehension figures for children and families were still high.

“Front-line personnel are required to release tens of thousands of unaccompanied alien children and illegal family units into the United States each year due to current loopholes in our immigration laws. This month we saw an unacceptable number of UACs [unaccompanied children] and family units flood our border because of these catch and release loopholes,” he said. “To secure our borders and make America safer, Congress must act to close these legal loopholes that have created incentives for illegal immigrants.”

In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, so many migrant families with small children arrive daily — more than 15,500 family members so far this fiscal year — that volunteers at a local shelter set up a play area in the corner.

When the number of unaccompanied migrant children caught crossing began to increase in April, fewer than 1,000 were apprehended a month. By last month, that had grown to 3,227. The number of family members caught crossing grew even faster during that time, from 1,118 in April to 5,656 last month.

When Elvis Antonio Muniya Mendez arrived at the shelter last month from Honduras with his 15-year-old son, the playpen was packed with the children of 100 fellow Central American migrants caught crossing the border illegally and released that day. Muniya, 36, had fled a gang that killed his 26-year-old brother the month before. He was hoping to join another brother in Indiana. He and his son were released with a notice to appear in immigration court, which he planned to attend.

“I want to live here legally, without fear,” he said.

Trump administration officials have proposed detaining more families, but that’s not happening in the Rio Grande Valley, where many are released like Muniya with notices to appear in court. The border shelter where Muniya stopped, Sacred Heart, saw the number of migrants arriving drop at the end of last year only to increase recently, said the director, Sister Norma Pimentel.

“I’ve never seen so many children be part of this migration,” Pimentel said as she surveyed the shelter, which had welcomed 60 migrants the day before.

Children who cross the border unaccompanied by an adult are sheltered by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and placed with relatives or other sponsors in the U.S. The agency has about 9,900 shelter beds spread out at various facilities. As of this week, the agency was sheltering 7,800 youths.

Children who cross the border with a parent may be released with notices to appear in court or held at special family detention centers. Trump administration officials have proposed detaining more of the families. But space is limited. As of Monday, the detention centers held 1,896 people. Only one of them can hold fathers, and attorneys said it’s always full, so men who cross with children are often released with a notice to appear in court.

Advocates for greater restrictions on immigration say more needs to be done to hold parents who cross with their children accountable. They say such parents put their children at risk by making the dangerous journey. Andrew Arthur, a former immigration judge now serving as a resident fellow in law and policy at the conservative Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, said the way migrants are treated on the border encourages family migration.

“The reason the children are there to begin with is this belief that a parent with a child will not be detained,” Arthur said. That assumption, he said, is wrong.

He said Congress and the Trump administration’s unwillingness to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has also encouraged migrant families to make the trip now in hopes of benefiting from a “DACA amnesty,” even though the program is limited to those who grew up in the U.S.

But migrants and advocates said they were driven to cross the border more by conditions in Central America — gang violence and economic downturns — than by U.S. policies.

Ruben Garcia is director of Annunciation House, an El Paso shelter for recent migrants that saw arrivals spike at the end of last year into early January, then dip recently.

“Until there is a greater capacity to detain everyone who comes in, you’re going to see these periodic surges, waves,” Garcia said. “Many of these countries, you just cannot live in them. People will tell you ‘It’s just dangerous to walk around in our neighborhood, you can’t make a living, you’re afraid someone’s going to extort you, you’re afraid to send your kids to school.’ “

Acceptance rate for asylum seekers in Canada at a 27-year high

Nice to see this data driven analysis:

Canada is accepting a higher proportion of asylum seekers than it has at any time in nearly three decades, a CBC News investigation has found.

CBC obtained almost 90,000 asylum claim decisions made by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada between January 2013 and September 2017.

The decisions indicate where each asylum seeker comes from, why they said they had to flee their homeland and whether their bid to stay in Canada was successful.

Download the raw data and see CBC’s full analysis here

The acceptance rate increased significantly in the past five years, to 70 per cent in the first nine months of 2017, up from 44 per cent in 2013.

The last time acceptance rates were this high was in 1991.

When asked what’s behind the increase, IRB spokeswoman Melissa Anderson said each refugee claim is reviewed on its own merits and decided on the basis of the facts and evidence presented.

Many asylum seekers say they were forced to flee criminals or gangs.

Most immigration experts who spoke with CBC News agree an important factor was likely changes to the IRB system introduced at the end of 2012.

The result was that, in most cases, a claim had to be heard within 60 days of being accepted by the IRB. Before that, cases wouldn’t be heard for about 18 months, said Vancouver refugee lawyer Douglas Cannon.

Because lawyers had so much lead time, board members expected to see considerable evidence in order to approve a claim, he said.

But with the drastically shortened timelines, those expectations became unreasonable, he said, and board members had to make a call based on the evidence that could be gathered within two months.

Before the changes, for example, it may have been possible to get a police statement from Colombia documenting a reported assault, but likely not within 60 days.

Because refugee law requires board members to give the claimant the benefit of the doubt, acceptance rates went up, Cannon said.

“It’s not a judgment of the board lowering its expectations in order to render a positive. It’s a board doing the job that it needs to do in a much more efficient manner. And that is a good thing.”

Catherine Dauvergne, dean of the University of British Columbia’s Allard Law School, said it’s also possible a new training program for board members introduced in 2013 contributed to the bump in approvals.

The more comprehensive program gave board members a better understanding of all the factors that go into deciding a refugee claim and the obstacles the claimants face, she said.

Dauvergne said another factor could be an infusion of new board members replacing old ones who may have been suffering from “compassion fatigue.” A rule change in late 2012 scrapped the appointment system to allow any qualified federal civil servant the opportunity to apply for a spot with the IRB.

Reasons for fleeing

The data obtained by CBC also showed the top reason for seeking asylum was to flee criminals or gangs, but individuals who made such claims were among the least likely to be approved by the IRB.

One of the criteria for a successful refugee claim is to what degree a claimant fits the United Nations definition of a convention refugee: Having a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Those fleeing criminals or gangs often do not meet these criteria.

Political and religious refugees were the most likely to be accepted.

Source countries

Another key finding was that asylum seekers from China had the highest number of refugee claim decisions over the five-year period, but that number began dropping significantly in 2015.

The drop was attributable to two factors unique to that country: fewer claims from the Falun Gong spiritual group and the end of the one-child policy in 2016.

Decisions on claims from Hungary also dropped from almost 2,000 in 2013 to about 400 in the first nine months of 2017. This was due to substantially fewer claims from members of the Roma ethnic group.

Meanwhile, Nigeria surpassed China as the country with the most refugee claim decisions in Canada last year. Many of the claims from Nigerians relate to sexual orientation and gender persecution.

Claims from Turkey have also increased significantly, making that country Canada’s second-largest source of asylum seekers. These claims were mostly political in nature, or from members of the Kurdish ethnic group.

via Acceptance rate for asylum seekers in Canada at a 27-year high – Canada – CBC News

Refugees crossing into B.C. on the rise, immigrant group says

Numbers small compared to Quebec but likely to increase:

On Nov. 18, 2017, Ribwar Omar, a 38-year-old Iraqi Kurd, arrived in Blaine, Wash., by bus. He stopped at a coffee shop, bought a hot chocolate and then, using the GPS on his phone, he made his way through a forest near the Peace Arch and crossed the border into Canada.

Omar is awaiting a refugee hearing, one of 1,277 new refugee claimants that made their way on foot from Washington state to B.C. in 2017. New numbers released by the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. (ISS) show their group has tracked a 76-per-cent increase in individuals accessing their services that have applied for refugee status, and 90 per cent of those arrive the same way Omar did: by walking across the U.S./Canada border between Blaine and Surrey through Peace Arch Park.

Chris Friesen of the ISS calls it “the underground railroad.”

“We have seen single men, families of 12, 13, people in wheelchairs, pregnant women,” said Friesen, with the majority originating from Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico, Iran and Colombia.

Friesen and other advocates are concerned that the spike in the number of asylum seekers could increase as the weather warms-up. Last summer, over 7,000 asylum seekers entered Quebec through irregular border crossings.

The reason many asylum seekers are using irregular border crossings — through farmers fields or border parks — is because of the Safe Third Country agreement between Canada and the U.S.

Under the deal, signed during the Harper government regime, refugee claimants are required to request refugee protection in the first safe country they arrive in, unless they qualify for an exception.

“This means that a refugee claimant who came from the United States to Canada through an official border crossing could be detained and deported, or kept in the United States, forcibly impinging their ability to seek asylum in this country,” said Friesen.

Many of the refugee claimants are well-informed about their rights, and will phone the RCMP to be picked up once they arrive in Canada. “The RCMP will drive them to Hornby Street to file their refugee claim,” said Friesen.

“With the numbers that are coming in it is pushing us to the breaking point,” said Friesen, who called the situation “a bloody mess.”

Friesen said ISS is tracking two clear waves of refugee claimants. The first includes those, like Omar, who are able to obtain a legal visitor’s visa to the U.S., and use the United States as a transit point into Canada.

“This is quite new,” said Friesen.

The second stream of new asylum seekers is comprised of individuals who may have been in the U.S. for years, but are vulnerable to the Trump administration’s new policies, including accelerated deportations, the suspension of temporary protection agreements for Haitian and El Salvadoran immigrants, as well as Dreamers.

Friesen said he has been in contact with provincial officials who are planning consultations next month on contingency plans to deal with the continued influx of asylum seekers.

via Refugees crossing into B.C. on the rise, immigrant group says | Vancouver Sun