Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Deportation of "legacy refugees" is a blot on Canada's immigration system

I always thought that Canada's immigration system worked pretty well - not perfect, but good. However, the reporting of one case (and apparently it is one among many similar ones) has me second-guessing that.
The Montoya family arrived in Canada in 2012 as refugees fleeting the notorious Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Since then, they have integrated well into Canadian society: they own property, run a small business, and volunteer in their local community. It is apparently a text-book example of how refugee resettlement is supposed to work.
Now, though, a judge at Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) is revisiting their case, and intends to deport the whole family of seven (including two children who have never known any home but Canada) back to Colombia. And on Christmas Eve, at that! The IRB judge has argued that the situation in Colombia has improved over the last six years and that the FARC is no longer a threat to the family. The Montoyas know that this is not true, that the FARC is still searching for them, and that their lives would be in danger if they were to return.
Yes, the situation in Colombia has improved, and the FARC are no longer the force they used to be, but they are far from inactive, and I am inclined to believe the family. But, more to the point, what is the IRB doing reviewing old cases to check whether conditions have changed, and then reassessing claims as though they were being made today?
For one thing, don't they have enough work with current claims, without resurrecting old ones? But for another, the Montoyas, and others like them, have made a new and successful life in Canada: to disrupt this now would just not be fair (to use a distinctly non-legal term). The situation for Jews in Europe has improved since the 1930s - should we then deport refugees from the Nazi regime (and their families) back to Europe, using the same logic?
Apparently, there are currently about 900 such "legacy refugees" waiting to have their cases heard by the IRB - which has a huge backlog of such cases waiting to be heard, with delays mounting to several years - and recent years have seen a significant up-tick in "failed" asylum seekers. All this has come as complete news to me, and it has shaken my faith in the Canadian immigration system.

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