Canadian Council for Refugees
For immediate release
16 March 2011
The Future of Colombian Refugees in Canada: Are We Being Equitable?
Summary of report of delegation to Panama, Ecuador and Colombia in November 2010
In November 2010, the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) joined the Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) in an NGO delegation to gather information about Colombian refugees in Panama and Ecuador. The CCR in addition visited Colombia, in order to gather information relating to the Canadian Source Country Class program and on the human rights situation within the country.
The CCR’s participation was motivated by the fact that Colombians represent one of the top nationalities seeking refuge in Canada, both as refugee claimants and as resettled refugees, and by concerns relating to difficulties in the resettlement of Colombians and to the declining acceptance rate for Colombian refugee claimants in Canada.
Through a series of interviews in Colombia, the delegation explored whether Colombians in fact have a decreased need of protection. The delegation learned that while Colombia is now indeed safer for some, for others the danger remains. The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the paramilitary have changed significantly, but retain the ability to persecute their enemies throughout the country. The various security forces (army, police and state security) commit human rights abuses. People who are threatened in one region may not be safe, even in Bogota, because of the growth in informant networks and surveillance, and the inadequacy of government protection programs.
The delegation also found that an “expert” whose opinion has been relied on in many negative Immigration and Refugee Board decisions does not claim to have current knowledge of the matter on which he is cited.
The visits in Panama and Ecuador highlighted the vulnerability of the many Colombian refugees in those countries. The delegation recommends that Canada increase resettlement of Colombians from both those countries, as well as directly from Colombia, with a focus on women at risk. The Canadian immigration authorities are also encouraged to develop ties with civil society in order to inform themselves about the realities on the ground, both within Colombian and in the countries of refuge.
The report of the delegation is available at: http://ccrweb.ca/sites/ccrweb.ca/files/ccr_colombia_report_2011.pdf
Colleen French, Canadian Council for Refugees: 514-277-7223 ext. 1, 514-476-3971 (cell), email email@example.com