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Mexico among countries deemed ‘safe’ by Canada immigration


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Map showing origin countries of refugees /asyl...
Map showing origin countries of refugees /asylum seekers (= people fleeing abroad) in 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eight new countries have been added to Canada’s list of nations that are considered safe for refugees, including Mexico, Iceland, Israel (excluding Gaza and the West Bank) and Japan, triggering renewed criticism from refugee advocacy groups and human rights lawyers.
The government’s latest announcement means 35 countriesare now considered safe. Countries from the original list include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Hungary and Slovenia.
The designation of safe country means these countries are able to protect their nationals from discrimination and any asylum claims from these nations will become part of a new expedited process, according to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made the announcement late this week and it becomes effective as of Feb. 15, 2013.
“Faster processing of asylum claims from generally safe countries is an essential feature of Canada’s new faster and fairer refugee system,” the minister said in a news release.
“Our new system provides protection more quickly to genuine refugees, while removing individuals whose claims are rejected from the country faster.”
But many refugee advocacy groups are critical of the safe country list, including the Canadian Council for Refugees. “Discriminating between refugee claimants based on the country they are from is unfair,” said Loly Rico, president of the Canadian Council for Refugees.
“Having a shorter time to prepare their stories and no opportunity to appeal means there can be more mistakes.”
The inclusion of Mexico on the safe country list also rankles Rico. “In recent years, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board has clearly recognized that Mexico is not safe for some of its citizens,” she said. “It will now be more difficult for people like these to find protection in Canada.”
The addition of Mexico to the list of safe countries is contradicted by abundant evidence of the lack of safety for many Mexicans — some of whom have come to Canada and sought refugee status, said Audrey Macklin, law professor at the University of Toronto.
The acceptance rate for Mexicans last year was 20 per cent, which suggests a significant number of claims met the definition of refugee, Macklin said. Adding Mexicans to the list adds “procedural obstacles which have the effect of making it more difficult for them to get a fair hearing.
“If people don’t get a fair hearing, it’s more likely their claims will be rejected,” said Macklin. “Under this system, if rejected they’re denied access to an appeal and that compounds the unfairness.
“To add insult to injury, a higher rejection rate will then be used as evidence, fulfilling the prophecy that their claims are not genuine to begin with.”
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