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Canadian Immigration Minister proposes refugee program reform

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This week, Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced a proposed set of changes to Canada’s refugee system that would see Canada accepting more refugees and providing allocating more funding to their resettlement. In addition, the proposed changes would streamline the application and appeal process for refugee claimants, ensuring that genuine refugee claims are approved more rapidly while false claims are denied more quickly.

Each year, Canada accepts more asylum-seekers than any other country. However, the country’s refugee program has come under some criticism for being too lax and allowing false claims to remain in the appeal process for years.

“We must act to avoid a two-tier immigration system: one for immigrants who wait in line – often for years – to come to Canada, and another for those who use the asylum system, not for protection, but to try to get through the back door into Canada,” Kenney said.

Under the proposed changes, refugee claims would initially be processed by government officials instead of members of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). Applications from asylum-seekers would be sorted according to whether the applicants are from countries the Canadian government considers safe, or from countries the Canadian government recognizes as being dangerous, and then processed accordingly.

Kenney aims to have all eligible claimants first meet with government officials for an information-gathering interview within 8 days of being referred to the IRB, and have their cases heard within 60 days of that initial meeting. Applicants from safe countries would be returned to their countries of origin on an accelerated basis, while applicants whose claims are accepted would be given refugee status and be able to apply for Canadian permanent residence.

In addition to accepting refugee claims from individuals, Canada also assists in the resettlement of refugees selected by the United Nations and other referral organizations. As part of Kenney’s proposed reform of the refugee program, Canada would accept 2,500 more refugees annually than it currently does.

The Canadian government would also provide more funding to resettle newly arrived refugees under the proposed amendments.

“This is an encouraging move in the right direction that yet again demonstrates the humanitarian commitment of Canada to provide protection to needy refugees… The UNHCR remains grateful to the Government and people of Canada for their continued generosity and hospitality in making this possible,” said Abraham Abraham, Canadian representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).