28 April 2004

Montreal.  The Canadian Council for Refugees today reacted with outrage at the federal government’s treatment of refugees in the new National Security Policy.

“Portraying refugees as a threat to our security is completely unjustified,” said Nick Summers, President.  “The government is reacting in a cowardly manner to pressures from the US by scapegoating refugees, who are among the world’s most vulnerable people.  Refugees are not a threat to our security: they are people whose own security is threatened and who are asking us for protection.”

The National Security Policy boasts about the activities abroad of Canadian interdiction officers (known euphemistically as “migration integrity officers”) who prevent passengers without the proper documents from travelling to Canada. This implies that these people represent a security threat.  In fact, most of them are asylum seekers who have no choice but to use improper documents in their attempt to flee persecution.  Having been interdicted by Canada, they have no guarantee of protection elsewhere and may be forced back to persecution in their home country. Despite repeated calls by the CCR and other organizations, Canada has continuously refused to take any responsibility for the fate of the people who these “migration integrity officers” turn away.

The Policy also states that the government is developing strategies to reform the refugee determination system.  “Refugee reform does not belong under the heading of national security,” said Summers.  “As long as security is motivating the reform and the Government uses refugees as scapegoats, the rights of refugees will inevitably take a back seat.  The result will be that refugees are hurt and Canada will end up violating its international obligations towards those people rightfully seeking asylum among us. Canada has a refugee determination system that is admired and copied by other countries around the world. The system is not perfect and could be improved but it should not be sacrificed by the Canadian Government to appease the U.S.”

The current refugee determination system already provides the government with a full set of tools to deal with any refugee claimants who represent a security threat.  These were needed with only a minuscule number of claimants. In 2003, over 30,000 claims were made but only one claimant was found ineligible based on the very broad security inadmissibility criteria.  It is most unlikely that any sophisticated terrorist would choose to enter Canada as a refugee claimant because of all the screening that they have to go through (fingerprinting, photographing, interviewing).


Nick Summers, President (709) 753-7860 (ext. 333) or (709) 682-9329
Janet Dench, Executive Director (514) 277-7223 (ext. 2)