8 countries to face tougher asylum rules

Canada is making it harder for Mexican refugee claimants to be approved for asylum, announcing today that Mexico is being added to a list of safe countries of origin.

Mexico, 7 others listed as safe, making asylum harder to get Canada

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Thursday that Mexico will be added to a list of safe countries of origin, a move by Canada to make it harder for Mexican refugee claimants to be approved for asylum. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Canada is adding another eight countries to a list of safe places, making it harder for refugee claimants from those countries to get asylum.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says he's adding Mexico, Israel, Australia and others to a list of "designated countries of origin," safe countries whose refugee claimants have a streamlined process to prove they have genuine need for asylum.

The new countries are:

  • Mexico.
  • Israel (excluding Gaza and the West Bank).
  • Japan.
  • Norway.
  • Iceland.
  • New Zealand.
  • Australia.
  • Switzerland.

That brings the total countries on the list to 35, including the United States. Hungary, which has generated a spike in claims from ethnic Roma, is on the list, although Romania and Bulgaria are not.

Mexican visitors to Canada will still need a visa, although a Canadian official says that will be re-examined once they know by how much the number of claimants falls.

Refugee claimants from the 35 countries will be fast-tracked with no right of appeal for a negative decision.

All applicants have the right to a judicial review of their case by the Federal Court to ensure it was handled properly, but those from the countries designated as safe won't be able to appeal the decision with the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Less preparation time, no appeals

Coming from a safe country of origin means claimants will:

  • Be given less time to prepare their claims before a hearing.
  • Have no opportunity to appeal a negative decision before the new appeal division within the Immigration and Refugee Board.
  • Have only 45 days until their hearing if they make a claim at the border, and 30 days if they make an inland claim.
  • Be subject to much faster removal times once a claim is rejected.
  • Be allowed to appeal for a judicial review if their claim is rejected, but they could be deported before that.
  • Not be eligible for basic and emergency health care (other than the treatment of conditions raising public health or safety issues).
  • Not be allowed to appeal on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, or ask for a pre-removal risk assessment, until one year after their claim is rejected, by which time they would likely be deported. That's the same for all failed claimants.

A refugee reform bill implemented last December allows for countries to be placed on the list if their claims have a rejection rate of at least 75 per cent at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, or a withdrawn and abandoned rate of at least 60 per cent. But Kenney has reserved the right to place any country on the list if he deems it to be democratic, with an independent judiciary.

Refugee advocates say the new rules will lead to more mistakes in the refugee determination process, and could see people sent back to persecution or even death in their home countries.