3 April 2003

On the eve of Refugee Rights Day, April 4, the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) expresses alarm that Canadian policies are increasingly turning against refugees.  This new tendency puts at risk Canada's international reputation as a fair and caring country.

"The last year has been a very bad one for refugee rights in Canada.  The Canadian government has been making it harder for refugees to get to Canada, has detained more refugee claimants, has denied refugees the right to an appeal (even though the law provides one) and hasn't allocated enough visa officers to process refugees for resettlement to Canada.  The government has also failed to challenge the totally unfounded linkage that has been made between refugees and terrorism," said Kemi Jacobs, President.  "As if all that isn't bad enough, now we hear media reports that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is proposing to Cabinet that we dismantle the best parts of our refugee determination system and detain yet more refugees!"

The CCR is deeply concerned that Canada seems to be turning away from its traditional commitment to protecting refugees.  The Canadian government appears to be paying more attention to appeasing the US Government's unfounded security concerns about our refugee system than to honouring Canada's international commitment to aid and protect refugees.  Refugees are people seeking security, not looking to undermine it.

The CCR acknowledges that there has been some good news.  "It has been hard to see much positive for refugees this year," said Nick Summers, Vice-President.  " Two good things were that the grounds on which refugee claimants can be protected have been broadened and that the government has committed itself to expanding the student loan program to cover refugees.  These improvements won't have much impact, however, if we seal our borders to refugees."

The Canadian Council for Refugees calls on the Canadian government to act immediately to reverse this disturbing trend, and to recommit Canada to providing protection to refugees fleeing persecution and oppression.  This would include ceasing to direct back refugee claimants who would be jailed in the US, implementing the appeal for refugees, allocating more visa officers to process refugees for resettlement and debunking the myths linking refugees to terrorism.

For more information, please contact:
Kemi Jacobs, President (416) 588-6288 (ext. 202)
Janet Dench, Executive Director (514) 277-7223
Nick Summers, Vice-President (709) 753-7860 (ext. 333)

The Canadian Council for Refugees is a non-profit umbrella organization committed to the rights and protection of refugees in Canada and around the world and to the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Canada. The membership is made up of over 175 organizations involved in refugee sponsorship and protection and in newcomer settlement. The CCR serves the networking, information-exchange and advocacy needs of its membership.