7 March 2003


Toronto. The Canadian Council for Refugees today challenged the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Denis Coderre to visit the refugee claimants affected by his inhumane and unfair new border policies.

Minister Coderre visited the Lacolle border point on Tuesday 4 March and said to reporters that the policy of directing refugees back to the US is working well. "The reason it seemed to him that things are working well is that he was looking in the wrong place," said Kemi Jacobs, President. "Instead of dealing responsibly with claimants at the border, his officials are busy forcing the claimants back into the US, so the problems are all in the US."

The Canadian Council for Refugees is inviting the Minister to visit some of the refugee claimants jailed in the US and to speak directly to the families struggling to survive in the US until they are admitted to Canada.

Since the end of January, the Canadian government has forcibly returned to the United States hundreds of people trying to seek Canada’s protection. They are given an appointment to return to Canada to pursue their claim, but, as the Canadian government is fully aware, many of them are detained by the US authorities and therefore unable to return to Canada. Others avoid being directed back by trying to make an appointment in advance, but the immigration department has allowed the system to backlog and waits are up to 7 weeks, during which time many families have no means of supporting themselves.

The Canadian Council for Refugees continues to urge the Canadian Government to cease returning refugee claimants to the US, especially when they risk detention and when they have no resources to care for themselves during the waiting period. The government should increase resources at the border points in order to process claims in a timely manner.

For more information, please contact:

Kemi Jacobs, President (416) 885-4678
Francisco Rico-Martinez, Past President (416) 471-7603
Janet Dench, Executive Director (514) 277-7223

Forced returns of refugee claimants to the US by the Canadian government: Questions and Answers

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.