Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Deportation Cases Not Properly Reviewed

Embassy, February 14th, 2007
By Brian Adeba

Refugee agencies want pre-risk assessments moved to the Immigration and Refugee Board, while one MP is critical of the judges' inexperience.

Two representatives from agencies dealing with refugee issues raised concern yesterday about the high rate of refugees being deported to their home countries. Speaking before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Claudette Cardinal, from the Canadian francophone section of Amnesty International, said cases for deportation are not being properly reviewed, and this puts refugees at risk when they are forcefully sent back to their home countries.

Richard Goldman, co-ordinator of Refugee Protection, a Montreal-based advocacy group, told the committee that to solve the problem the government must remove the Pre-Risk Assessment process from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and incorporate it into the Immigration and Refugee Board.

"This is because the IRB is already expert on refugee issues and it is independent of the government," he said in an interview.

"It seems to us to make sense to have the same experts decide whether a person at the end of the process would face prosecution in their home country. It makes no sense to have two different teams, one at CIC and the IRB to do that."

Ms. Cardinal testified that because of improper assessment by Pre-Risk Assessment officials, her office has received reports that refugees who were deported ended up disappearing or receiving death threats, while some were forced into hiding. She gave the example of a a former slave from the West African nation of Mauritania who, upon learning that slavery was illegal in his country, embarked on a process of educating others held in servitude. The man later fled to Canada because he was threatened with death. However, his application for refugee status was rejected. He was subsequently deported and now his whereabouts are unknown.

Only one to three per cent of applicants are accepted in the Pre-Risk Assessment process. After rejection, most refugees go to a federal court to seek redress. The process takes two to three months, during which time refugees have no source of income. The total review process takes one to three years once it is before a federal judge, Mr. Goldman said.

PRA officials also came under criticism from some MPs for their inexperience. Meili Faille, citizenship and immigration critic for the Bloc Quebecois, said in Montreal the average age of PRA officials is 22 to 25 years.

"I don't know if you have come across a citizenship judge who is 25 years old–this is troubling," she told the committee.

Both Ms. Cardinal and Mr. Goldman recommended that the government implement the Refugee Appeals Board and ban deportations while hearings on refugee eligibility are going on.