The Problems with Refugee Determinations: An International Comparative Analysis

Not too long ago, I wrote a paper arguing for the legitimacy of judicial review. I argued in this paper that decisions made by the courts are not based on their individual and personal biases, but that their decisions merely reflect current public interests. That being said however, I’m not so sure if I still stand true to my original thesis given the context of today’s seminar.

Why do I feel this way? Well to start, Hugo Storey’s presentation offered me with new insights on how decision-making really worked in European and non-European courts, as well as decisions made by the UNHCR. As a representative from London, England, Storey points out that one principle reason why 70% of asylum claims stand or fall is due to the issue of credibility. For example, Storey notes that while decision-makers in non-European countries are much better trained than they were 20 years ago in their decision practices, their diagnoses are not always consistent. Furthermore, although the UNHCR decisions are often taken into consideration because they offer unified guidelines and legal criteria, the fact that they do not publish their decisions signifies a lack of transparency. In his examination of European decisions however, Storey was confident that their approaches have improved significantly since the introduction of “harder norms.” Not only have these approaches initiated examination of asylum claims individually with respect to similar cases, they have also incorporated considerations regarding the country from which asylum seekers arrive from.

With regard to Storey’s first point, it’s hard not to agree with him on the issue of credibility in Canada and the United States. For one, as evidenced in today’s seminar, Sean Rehaag’s presentation has quite convincingly proved my thesis wrong. Drawing inspiration from the Refugee Roulette Project, Rehaag’s presentation focused mainly on questioning the qualitative causes of inconsistency within Canada’s refugee determination boards. In his analysis, he explains that the decline we have seen in the last two decades in in the granting of refugee status is due to the problems with the quality of council. Not only is there an inconsistency with how judges determine claims, their lack of explanations for their decisions prove to be quite restrictive and lacking transparency. Furthermore, the fact that successful grants tend to result from one’s eligibility of receiving legal aid suggests that there is a tendency for judges to give priority to people with higher socio-economic statuses as opposed to making sound judgements based on similarly situated claims. And last, it was mentioned that reforms in the system have tended to be catered towards countries that provide the greatest market sources to Canada. Claims from Mexico, for example, have received greater acknowledgement than any other countries in the past, and this was later followed by Hungary too.

With regards to the United States, how have their court decisions faired compared to Canada? Well, according to Jaya Ramji-Nogales, she also agrees that asylum office decisions rely greatly on the representation of asylum seekers. Being represented, according to her, somehow equates to one’s legitimacy and reduces their level of threat. Furthermore, level of education and mode of entry are also strong determinants to one’s succession. What is also interesting to note in regards to the United States is that although their determination system is different compared to ours, discrepancies can likewise be seen in how decisions are made depending on who makes the judgements and where.

So in consideration of the above, Storey’s argument has definitely captured the reality in non-European countries. Not only have refugee determinations in Canada and the United States been affected by judicial activism, their decisions have left me dumbfounded and sickened by the thought that one’s socioeconomic status can still determine their likelihood of receiving refugee status. While I agree with Storey’s view towards non-European decision-making, I’m not so sure if I agree with him on the roles played by the UNHCR or his positive view towards European decisions either.

If the audience’s response to Storey’s presentation was not enough to prove my point, Madeline Garlick’s presentation is definitely enough to debunk Storey’s following arguments. Representing the UK, Garlick argues that although there have been significant steps towards harmonization in the European Union in recent years, there are still critical flaws in the decision-making processes. In her argument, the general lack of common practise in the member states of the UK is the number one reason why discrepancies are still evident. These discrepancies can be evidenced in one particular example. According to Garlick, not only is there a 0-99% rate of recognition for Syrian refugees, the grants for indiscriminate protection varies from country to country too. According to Garlick, with over 300,000 claims still waiting to receive a decision, there are at least five member states who only issue rejection decisions, while 7 member states only offer minimal protection to 50% of those with refugee status. Given the huge discrepancies that still exist in the UK, Garlick suggests that we need different judging methods, different ways to assess risk, and different approaches to management of these items in the spirit of international solidarity; and the only way to do this is to adopt the international framework, embracing all international standards and procedures, perceptions, criteria for qualification, temporary protection, and responsibility for asylum claims. Only through these efforts is it possible to amend the problems of inconsistency within these systems of decision-making.

So, while there are flaws in essentially all states mentioned above, the way to solve these problems is not to reject the principles of UNHCR, but to embrace the methods and criteria outlined by this institution. As a unifying instrument, if all countries of the UK and non-European states were to adopt similar practises, then maybe we can see some positive and progressive change in the decision-making processes after all. Moreover, if such approaches were embraced by these countries, maybe then we will see some transparency in  how decisions are made. Yet, until these procedures and standards are given adequate attention, we can only hope for the best in the coming years.

Are EU Citizens who are Roma also Potentially Refugees outside the EU?

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Blog2_Pic1Elspeth Guild is Jean Monnet Professor ad personam at Queen Mary, University of London as well as at the Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands.

She is also a partner at the London law firm, Kingsley Napley and an associate senior research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies, Brussels

Her interests and expertise lie primarily in the area of EU law, in particular EU Justice and Home Affairs (including immigration, asylum, border controls, criminal law and police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters). She also researches EU privacy and data protection law and the nexus with human rights.
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Where to live? Poland? Austria? Finland? Belgium? Italy? Where to work? Spain? Luxembourg? Hungary? Netherlands? As a citizen of the European Union, the world—well most of Europe that is—seems to be at your feet.

European Union (EU) citizenship is supposed to provide all citizens of the EU with a right to live anywhere in Europe and to work.  Why then do the Roma population, who are EU citizens, flee the entire EU region and seek international protection in Canada?  What are the circumstances that create concern for this group of persons?  Building on recent research carried out for UNHCR, Professor Guild addressed these issues in her presentation at the York Research Tower on Monday.

Guild’s work specifically looks at employing “cumulative discrimination” as grounds for persecution so that the Romani people can access the rights and provisions afforded to refugees and asylum seekers. It is estimated that the Roma population in Europe is anywhere form 10-12 million people. The largest group, approximately two million people, reside in Romania. Turkey houses another 1 million, the population in Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic is around 500, 000 – with other countries having up to 200, 000 Romani persons within their borders.

This sizeable group consistently faces systemic exclusion and discrimination across Europe, basically rendering them as “internally displaced persons” in a continent they call home and to where they allegedly possess citizenship. Hence, the romantic view of gypsies as “free, mobile peoples engaging in song, dance and crafts” quickly diminishes and a sense of horror may set in upon realisation that Europe has once again become a refugee producing area in the context of the Roma.

In order to conceptualize the plight of the Roma at the most basic level, it is necessary to determine who is a part of this group. Guild explained how the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe, and the European Union each use different criteria to classify the Roma as such. However, this variance is not the only issue. The Council of Europe has determined a good portion of the Roma as opposed to the collection of data on their people. In the past, the most extreme example of such data collection was the Holocaust, where such data was used to exterminate their population; such data still serves as a basis for ethnic profiling from law enforcement. Hence this project is politically loaded; after all, in such circumstances,  who is really going to self identify as Roma and why?

The central problem to the Roma accessing protection is that if you are a citizen of a state, then you cannot be a refugee. One must be outside the state to claim asylum and cannot be a refugee inside one’s state of nationality. The crux of this corollary is the 1999 Aznar Protocol. When the union was made, this protocol presumed that once you are a citizen of the area, you are fully protected within its boundaries. Though there is evidence that flagrant and continuous human rights violations against the Roma occur, because of the Aznar Protocol most EU member states are reluctant to deem Roma applications for protection as legitimate. Nevertheless, this environment of discrimination breaches rights guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such as the right for a citizen to enter and live in his or her country of origin. Expulsion and deportation within the EU is only supposed to occur on three grounds; where there is a threat to the public, to security and to health. However, these grounds have been stretched in practise to remove the Roma population by branding them as bands of organized criminals and thus creating fear, suspicion and undesirability. As a result, these people are forced to return to their country of origin where their initial persecution occurred.

Guild went on to give specific examples about the cruel and inhumane treatment the Roma endure across the continent:

  • Belgium- When Roma residents attempted to renew their residence cards, such cards were stolen by local officials. In order to gain permanent residence, one must reside in that country for a minimum of five years. Consequently, when the residence cards were confiscated, there was no way to document and register how many years these people had lived within Belgium, disqualifying them from permanent status and provisions accordingly.
  • Macedonia- Closure of passport facilities, exhausting the process of receiving legitimate identification
  • Czech Republic and Slovakia- Roma women continually undergo forced sterilization
  • Bulgaria- Forcible eviction, property looted and burnt
  • U.K.- Racial and biased arrests
  • Romania- Destruction of entire villages
  • Greece and Hungary- Segregation in schools
  • Spain- Lack of access to social benefits, economic discrimination

Seeing such practises that discriminate, if not outright violate, the Roma population all across the continent, Roma’s desire to seek refuge outside of the EU seems somewhat substantiated.

A 2012 study by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) found that 20% of the Roma population did not have healthcare coverage (Guild explained how unlike in the American context, this number is appalling for Europe); 45% of the Roma live in housing lacking indoor washrooms and electricity, 90% live below the national poverty standard and 40% go hungry once a month because they do not have enough money for food. Interestingly the FRA and UNDP found these trends in both Eastern and Western Europe.

The obvious question that comes to mind then is, how has the EU responded? In truth a lot of money has been spent on considering Roma affairs. However, making funds available is not an effective remedy. For one, ensuring the Roma are treated fairly is the responsibility of the state where these persons are residing. However, if they are never allowed to register and thus legally allowed to stay in other EU countries, the Roma are increasingly pushed back to their country of origin, where the original persecution occurred. Secondly, Guild explained that even though money is made available, politicians are unlikely to access these funds. For these funds to be used it is essentially asking the very people who force the Roma out of their communities to allocate money to help them, a highly unrealistic task. Secondly, there is a fear of public backlash and loss of support from the larger EU public if a politician is seen helping the Roma. Hence compounded by the lack of political will, the practise of “votes for violations” prevails across Europe.

Guild concluded by noting that yes, free movement within the European common zone has helped some Romani people escape hardship, but it has not helped all, nor is there a system in place to address their needs in a holistic manner. As a result, many have been pushed back to places of social exclusion and discrimination which constitutes persecution. Hence, feeling trapped in a vicious circle of violence, the Roma seek refuge outside the EU. This trend forces us to question what does this say for European integration? What will Roma protection look like outside of Europe? How will this intersect with visa allocations etc.? One thing for certain is that contrary to the dreamy images of gypsies travelling by caravan town to town, the fact remains that the Roma do not want to move on; they want to be rooted in a place in which they have the legal right to call home.

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For more information on this topic please see:

bigo_gen 47 cover.QXD_foreigners, refugeesForeigners, Refugees or Minorities? Rethinking People in the Context of Border Controls and Visas

Edited by Didier Bigo, Sciences-Po, France, Sergio Carrera, Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Belgium and Elspeth Guild, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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Insights into the Labels of Child Migration

The March 21st CRS and CERIS seminar entitled ‘Independent Child Migration: Insights Into Agency, Vulnerability And Structure’ featuring panelists Aida Orgocka, Michael Bossin, and Roy Huijsmans, emphasised the importance of dispelling the stereotype of child migration as a “new” phenomenon and recognising the role of children in development, generally.

Panelist Aida Orgocka began the seminar with her discussion of how child migration has been gaining momentum for the last twenty years. Previous analyses of this phenomenon have classically looked at push and pull factors that motivate children to migrate. However, recent scholarship, as Orgocka suggested, must acknowledge that children may want to migrate, and that such a demand needs to be addressed and recognised as such as well (Note: Individuals may want to consult Orgocka’s book for further discussion on this topic – “Independent Child Migration: Insights Into Agency, Vulnerability And Structure”).

Orgocka pointed out that applying the label ‘vulnerable’ does not adequately describe child migrants. The term implies that these children are helpless; yet they often rely on their own agency to provide for themselves while  migrating, and they would not necessarily self –identify as ‘vulnerable’ or ‘victims’. This reality often clashes with agencies’ perceptions and framing of children as vulnerable; the latter may prove to be a resourceful framing in some cases, but it simultaneously produces a sense of victimisation. This situation thus highlights that agency and vulnerability are not mutually exclusive.

Panelist Michael Bossin presented his case study of a child migrant who had sought asylum in Canada.  Josette, a twelve-year-old refugee leaving Mexico to live with her father claimed refugee status and claimed that her mother back in Mexico was abusive. This case is particularly important because it challenges typical understandings of child migration: Josette had been granted refugee status in Canada by the IRB, but had been later sent back to Mexico after her mother had applied for a return of custody under the Convention on civil aspects of international child abduction (The Hague Convention). The unilateral decision of a parent to control the migration of their child results in the control of a child’s decision to migrate, regardless of the child’s wishes. This case illustrates that The Hague Convention focuses on parents’ rights, and the child is not considered an active party in the process. The Hague Convention thus fails to recognise that parents may be the source of persecution. Children are their own parties in terms of migration, and have protection under the Charter of Rights (procedural safeguards such as: rights to notice, disclosure, the opportunity to respond, and the right to have representation). Bossin stressed that under The Hague convention there must be a period “to slow down and get the evidence” before the Court of Appeal makes their decision. Treating children as agents in migration is an important step that safeguards their interests.

The final panelist, Roy Huijsmans, discussed the agency and vulnerability of young migrants in Laos. Using fieldwork he conducted in the country, Roy acknowledged that children have a place in development, most commonly at home, in communities, and in schools. There has been a tendency to compartmentalise the movement of children (forced/ voluntary), but through such case studies and discussion on regular versus irregular migration, Huijsmans has shown that descriptive and static factors of child migration offer a limited analysis of migration channels, generally.  Challenging ‘good’ and ‘bad’ migration is thus necessary to truly understand the concept of migration. In Laos, seeking education beyond secondary school requires migration (notably to Thailand). Migration for an education, which is seen as ‘good’ migration can be more constraining than that of irregular migration. Roy explains that in some cases it can be a form of state-condoned trafficking as it may come with conditions and fees (i.e. you must “pay” to study). This can lead to child migrants who end up working more than studying in order to pay for their education and save enough money to send back to their families.

The recognition that children play an active role in development and migration trends represented a common theme of discussion and focus among the panelists and their research, respectively. For example, the panelists often contextualised children’s ages and their impact and role on development in their communities accordingly. They further highlighted the importance in considering the degree in which children are involved in the decision to migrate as such may vary based on age, community, group, etc. Questions such as “What challenges do [children] face?” and “What legal and social protection[s] do they encounter while migrating?” were addressed in the panelists’ presentations and are also highlighted in their publications in the context of agency and vulnerability as well.

Analysing child migration based on data and not reports allows us to thus challenge basic understandings of migration. Stated migration purposes, migration experiences (context), and networks tell us more about child migration than static facts and labels.

“Something to be Proud of…..”

Truth be told, there aren’t many occasions where I can boast about my status as a Canadian citizen. But today would probably be one of those days where I can. I’m proud to be a Canadian for the very reasons that bind us together as a nation. We are a country that prides itself in its multiculturalism, its bilingualism, and its endless array of career and educational opportunities as well.

Of the many things that Canadian’s are proud of, of course, is our continual involvement, both domestically and internationally, in the promotion of women’s rights. In particular, one specific development which we have accomplished and reinforced over the years exemplifies this: As discussed in today’s seminar, Chantelle Bowers, the Executive Director and General Counsel member of the Judiciary and Registry Services in Federal Court of Appeal and the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, talks about the importance of the Immigration and Refugee Board’s Gender Guidelines.

What this basically means is that, before there was an established body of case laws that considered the unique experiences of refugee women who sought out asylum in Canada, the existing body of literature in the Convention itself was shaped primarily on the experiences of men alone. The fact that both women and men’s fear of persecution were treated on similar grounds ignored how women experienced violence and discrimination in different ways that did not always relate to men. For example, the Convention definition of persecution did not deal with problems perpetrated by forced marriage, forced abortion, genital mutilation, compulsory sterilization, sexual and domestic violence, or other forms of violence that transgress cultural, legal, religious, or social norms.

In recognizing that various forms of gender violence have had – and continues to have – profound effects on the livelihoods of women around the world, including increasing levels of poverty, displacement, and violence, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) chairperson, Nu rjehan Mawani, has put forth a ground breaking legal instrument to help guide the decision making processes for female asylum seekers. This instrument, the “Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution” consists of a body of case laws that analyze these specific experiences that are unique only to women, and it can be found on the IRB’s website for further inquiry (http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/eng/brdcom/references/pol/guidir/Pages/GuideDir4.aspx).

A look into the importance of this instrument can be exemplified by how, since its advent, this ground breaking tool has become an instrumental guideline for the Immigration Act itself, and has been recognized worldwide as the FIRST of its kind to actually heed to UNHCR’s call for a State issued guideline that examines and considers gender-based claims submitted by women seeking for asylum. What makes this Gender Guideline even better is that it has been adopted by various countries worldwide as well, including the United States, the U.K., and Australia too. The sheer fact that this guideline is so widely accepted and legitimized serves as a reminder of how powerful an impact it has had on women’s right in international refugee law.

To this extent, some of the amazing features of this guideline include the fact that it takes each case seriously – on an individual basis- and is also mindful of the different private/public issues that may result in a woman’s inability to voice their fear of persecution as well. It is very important that in examining a claim that decision-makers also consider the linkages between a claimant’s gender, their fear of persecution, and to what grounds on the Convention this fear justified.  It is also important because decision-makers must also consider how this fear is also linked to one’s country of origin, the specific laws that may infringe on the rights of a woman, the experience of “similarly situated women” and also the evidence based on one’s race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and social membership within a particular group too. To say that this guideline goes above and beyond the necessary considerations of intersectionality is an understatement.

What further demonstrates the incredibility of Mawani’s Gender Guidelines is that it gives women the opportunity to be visible – as opposed to being invisible in their communities – and also empowers them to have a voice and to use that voice to talk about their experiences of discrimination too. But for those who, for various social, cultural or personal reasons, are unable to make a statement in front of men, for example, the courts have also demonstrated awareness to cultural relativism and have acted to consider these claimant’s needs as well, by having male witnesses removed from the hearing rooms.

By respecting the rights and personal circumstances of each and every female claimant, the Gender Guideline has most definitely won my support as a proud Canadian citizen. It is, and continues to be, a powerful and influential instrument in the international refugee laws for women’s rights and for women asylum seekers.

And to this extent, I feel as though Canada has come a long way since the early 1900s where the observance of International Women’s Day was only celebrated and appreciated by a small minority of the population. Today however, the leaps which we have taken into securing the rights of women worldwide can be reflected by how International Women’s Day is celebrated world-wide now, and has also been made into a national holiday in some countries as well. But while we, as women, have come a long way since the early 1900s, it is also important to be mindful that while the establishment of the Gender Guidelines was one mechanism that assisted the advancement of international women’s right, we still have a long way to go. And to quote Chantelle Bowers from today’s presentation then, “we need to make international women’s day everyday”!

Hope and Optimism in the Global South

As I’m sure most Canadian born citizens may have felt at least one point in life, going to school can be a drag and even tiring. The sleep deprivation, the stress, the travelling, etc… All these things can be seen as a hindrance. Yet, what we also know is that education is necessary and can be seen as a route for future security! This same mentality is shared cross-globally as well, especially in the most remote regions of the Dadaab camp, home to the largest refugee population in the world!

With over half a million people in these remote sites, this number increases each year with thousands of displaced persons coming from countries like Somalia, Sudan, and even Ethiopia to this camp, located in Kenya. While political, economical and environmental circumstances prevent them from returning back to their countries of origin; just the mere thought of education brings hope to the hearts of these people. Seen as a route for salvation, many go through great lengths to send their children to school. Whether it is lining up for hours to get into the schools or squeezing into the tents with the other hundreds of students/parents, Caroline Keenan demonstrates how education is mutually embraced by these people as a form of hope and optimism.

Yet despite this mutual feeling towards school, the sad reality is that not everyone gets to go to school. For example, as Athena Madan has shown in her presentation, oftentimes people opt for alternative routes like vocational training versus formal education because it offers longevity and security. Others feel that they should return back to being a child soldier for armed forces because International strategies of reintegration can oftentimes lead to one’s own isolation and feelings of detachment within a particular community. While reintegration for ex-child soldiers may be troubling, this process is even worse for girls. Since girls are most susceptible to sexual violence, they are further victimized by their family because they are viewed as “defiled and dirty” and therefore is ostracized from both marriage and schooling too.

Another factor that hinders one’s ability to receive an education is the limited available resources for teaching and the shortage of teachers as well. As Wenona Giles has shown in her presentation, only 1/3 of the people ever get a chance to enter school, and this number is even less for girls. In fact, 1 out of 6 girls graduate from high school, leaving this number far lower for those who pursue higher education or seek teaching careers too. And for this reason, Don Dippo shows that 86% of teachers are men and only 14% account for the female population. The shortage of teachers in general means that some teachers have to teach a class of up to 80 students, and this also means that the quality of education is not the best either. This is why national exam scores are always very low in the Kenyan district.

Coupled with the shortage of teachers, teaching environments are not always equipped for quality learning either. As Athena has shown, lack of running water and lighting in school means that oftentimes students have to crowd under one 5 watt light bulb to read books. Moreover, Caroline also shows that since there is an intersection between education and food, parents would often opt to send their children to schools that offer a food program as opposed to those schools that do not.

With consideration to these problems, the general argument in this seminar is that international strategies for education thus far have not always worked for the people of these refugee camps. As Wenona argues, the Global North has tended to use two rationales to justify why education has not been treated as an essential criterion for protection. First, refugee circumstances have always been treated as an emergency situation, with education posing a threat to a refugee’s ability to return home. Secondly, there is also the fear that education will empower refugees to challenge issues of forced migration and humanitarian issues.

Another thing that must be taken into consideration with schooling approaches is the way context and capital is applied. By this, Athena stresses that there may be conflict or controversy depending on where schools are built, who funds for these schools, and the type of social, moral, and political concerns addressed in school curriculums that may have imperializing implications.

When we consider these problems with education, is it possible to imagine positive change then? The answer is yes. And we can see this through some of the programs that are emerging today whose goals are to address these specific problems mentioned above. For example, as Don has stressed, since most teachers in these camps are refugees themselves, the shortage of teachers and inadequate schooling environment is often due to the fact that in order to become a teacher, one must have graduated from high school to begin with. Recognizing that at the core of these problems is that displaced persons of the Global South has been placed into this category of “permanent temporariness” by force, this forced externalization of refugees tends to hinder one’s ability make choices, to access higher education, and to have a voice. For this reason, researchers have found a possible route that can alter this.

According to Wenona, the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) Project is a joint project supported by the Refugee Research Network (RRN), Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS) and York University, and also funded by the SSHRC, the International Development Research Centre of Canada (IDRC) and the UNHCR. This joint Canadian-Global South partnership looks at incorporating both York University curriculums with the Kenyan curriculums to deliver on-line degrees, diplomas and certificates that can meet the needs of the Global South situations. According to Don, these curriculums not only offer a wider scope of possibilities for people who don’t just want to be teachers, but they can also choose to pursue other opportunities that may be relevant to their social circumstances, including fields in community public health, community development and extensive studies, public admin, business, education, and natural sciences. These programs are all geared towards necessary survival skills that can be transferrable to the communities as a whole.

Looking at a different route, Caroline Keenan shows how Save the Children has also begun to work as a Global Partner with UNHCR to support the delivery of education and improving the system for various communities in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Yemen, Syria, Pakistan, and South Sudan.  Through combining the intersection of food and school together, children are guaranteed the ability to complete school without hindrance; more so, this project also looks at incorporating an accelerated education system to help those who have missed a few years of schooling to catch up in order to transition to other programs. Next, this development project also looks at teacher training as well, helping qualified teachers build on their qualifications to get proper certification. Furthermore, these programs also stress the importance of fostering inter-governmental policy dialogue so that governments in host communities and refugee communities will both have a say in public policy decisions. And last, this program is also trying to encourage interactive radio instructions to offer a chance for education for children who are unable to get to school for security reasons or distance reasons.

Thus, with a particularly strong emphasis on accessibility to primary and higher education, greater female representation in schools, better quality of education in general, and the emphasis on providing food and teacher training programs, the above projects all provide a possible route for salvation where externalization has made it impossible for refugees to make choices and to have a voice. But whether these programs can actually foster a dialogue between the Global South and Global North is yet to be determined however. But one thing is for sure, we are hopeful and optimistic about its possibilities.

The Different Faces of Immigrant Integration

Picture1In a multicultural country where immigrants comprise a significant number of the population, it is important that they become integrated into the society not only economically, but also socially and politically. Immigrant integration has been one main issues of migration; as such, it is very apt that CERIS and CRS hosted a seminar about the topic last Thursday, February 28, 2013.

Ranu Basu presented her research project entitled “Understanding diversity and space in Scarborough through ‘integrative multiplicity’” while Matthew Smith and Alan Walks talked about “Minority electability in urban Ontario municipalities”.

Picture3Ranu Basu discussed how immigrants in Scarborough, which comprise 57% of its population, utilize public spaces such as schools, coffee shops, public parks, religious centres, and ethnic shops as a way to integrate themselves into the society. Through these public spaces, immigrants from different cultures interact and learn from each other – a type of relationship that is called multifarious (very complex type of relationship as opposed to unidirectional and two-way).  This study suggests that geographical arrangements of public spaces lead to different experiences of integration and understanding.

What is interesting in this research study is that although newcomers feel exclusion in the areas of educational assessment and housing opportunities, they are more positive and feel less alienated than those who were staying a bit longer. In addition, for immigrants, public spaces varied in scale and importance; hence, their definition of public spaces changes through time and circumstances.

Picture2Alan Walks and Matthew Smith, on the other hand, presented a different aspect of integration. They talked about the ability of visible minority candidates in winning Canadian municipal elections in six large urban Ontario Municipalities: the Cities of Ottawa, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Markham, and Richmond Hill in the 2006 and 2010 Ontario municipal elections. Their study revealed that there is a consistent pattern of underrepresentation even in those areas where visible minorities constitute a significant part of the population. Furthermore, visible minorities encounter extra barriers such as name recognition and the lack of financial resources to name a few, affect their chances of winning.

According to their research, only two cities, Markham and Toronto, saw a slight improvement from 2006 to 2010 while Richmond Hill is the least represented and in Mississauga, no visible minorities were elected.  Interestingly, racial mix at the neighbourhood scale enhances visible minority electability.

Towards to the end of the presentation, they introduced some recommendations for policy and electoral reform such as campaign training and mentoring, some measure of public funding for campaign expenses, party system arrangements, and enhanced civic and public education of the Canadian electoral system to name a few.

Although both presentations showed a contrasting view of the level of integration immigrants experienced – civic and political areas, these studies highlight the importance of interaction and integration in order for immigrants to feel inclusiveness and less alienation in the society. Intermingling with immigrants from different cultures in public spaces will lead to open mindedness, less racism, and discrimination and at the same time, constant interaction with the whole society will pave the way for the eventual political integration through education and awareness of the electoral system and recognition of their rights as citizens and future citizens of the country. Not to mention, if minorities would voice out their needs and suggestions in public spaces, elected officials can make better policies that are suited for immigrants and newcomers. In addition, societal participation and racial mix, as suggested Walks and Smith’s research study suggests more chances of visible minorities getting elected in the government.

 

 

Refugee Status Determination in Poland and the EU Asylum System

CRS Blog- February 19/2013-
Presenter- Jacek Chlebny, Blog written by Shanaz Khan

– Dr. JaPresentercek Chlebny is President, Regional Administrative Court in Warsaw & Judge, Supreme Administrative Court Poland. His responsibilities in this role include administrative matters, especially cases regarding aliens, refugees, taxes and custom duties. Prior to this, from 1985-1993, he served as a judge on various courts in Poland with responsibility in civil matters. Dr. Chlebny has recently completed a post doctoral degree called habilitation, the highest academic achievement in Europe, in the subject area of administrative law.–

What would a North American supranational governance body, similar to the European Union, look like? What effect would laws made at this higher level have on domestic laws? How would border policies be affected? I am sure we have all considered these questions upon pondering the European Union. In his presentation, Dr. Jacek Chlebny showed the ramifications such a union has for immigration in the European context. He specifically spoke of the refugee status determination procedure in Poland and put it into the context of the European Convention of Human Rights and EU Directives (CEAS). Interestingly enough, some of the challenges Poland face in their refugee determination status speaks to conundrums Canada may face due to Bill C-31. Hence Dr. Chlebny’s presentation was not only informative, but very pertinent in our own context.

Dr. Chlebny’s presentation had 2 main parts. He spoke of the web of legal norms and hierarchies of law judges in European Union states must consider in a refugee appeal. He then spoke specifically on refugee determination in Poland.

His presentation also centred around three problems Poland’s refugee status determination process confronts:

- (1) When can suspensive effect be implemented? In other words, if a refugee does not obtain refugee status, how long can he or she remain in the country (to potentially mount an appeal) and thus suspend the requirement to be removed/deported? Must they leave after first notice of a negative decision? Or can they stay until a final decision is rendered by the judge after an appeal?

  • This is blatantly important because according to the Geneva Convention, for one to be considered a refugee/ asylum seeker he or she must be outside of his or her country of origin. Hence without suspensive effect and swift deportation an applicant may not have the ability to appeal an unfavourable decision because he or she does not fit the most basic of definitions.

- (2) If new facts emerge after a final decision is made in a refugee determination case that helps substantiate the refugee’s claim, can this evidence be taken in consideration by a judge in an appeal?

  •  This issue is particularly relevant to Canada in light of the changes and complexities Bill C-31 has ushered in

- (3) How should this evidence be weighted? Can the judge challenge the immigration administration to assess this evidence?

  • In this respect, what is the scope of judicial review? If it is too narrow how can it effectively act as a counter weight to decisions made at the administrative level?

Web of Legal Norms
Dr. Chlebny began his presentation by flushing out the legal apparatus used in the EU. He noted that as sovereign states that have contracted into certain international and supranational regimes, judges in Poland, and other EU states, presiding over refugee cases must consider the legal norms of four main sources:

- (1)United Nations International Law: 1951 Geneva Conventions

  • Which embeds important norms such as prohibiting the deportation of a human being back to their country of origin if he or she will endure torture or inhumane treatment

- (2)Domestic law: Constitution, and in the case of Poland the Law on Granting Protection of Aliens of 2003, Law on the Procedure before Administrative Courts 2003

- (3) European Union law and judgements from the Court of Justice of the European Union

  • Binding on the 27 member states

- (4) European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in located in Strasbourg, France

  • All European states are members, each individual has the right to action against the contracting state if his or her rights have been violated

This plethora of norms creates a dynamic judicial process but one where certain norms may contradict one another. As Dr. Chlebny pointed out, it is key to navigate through these contradictions because refugee determination cases not only entails granting status to stay, but also carries certain obligations and restraints to respect the unsuccessful claimant’s human rights upon their denial and removal.

Table 3Hierarchy of Laws
Here in Canada Constitutional Supremacy prevails. We are all familiar with the practise that if a law or procedure is in contravention of the Charter, it is immediately null and void and must be reformed.

However this stipulation has an added layer in the EU. European Union law is supposed to always have primacy in cases of conflict with domestic law. However, in a Polish Constitutional Tribunal judgement of 11 May 2005 it was found that membership to the EU does not undermine the supremacy of the Constitution. National constitutions that have individual rights provisions enshrined within, often indicate a minimum threshold of treatment and basic rights that cannot be violated, even by EU law.

With that said, EU law still has significant weight in that when it is not possible to reconcile EU law with domestic law, member states often amend their constitution since the other two alternatives, amending the EU law (which  would require consent of all member states) and withdrawing from the EU itself, are highly unrealistic. This therefore creates a niche for judicial review to interpret whether these two layers of law have reinforced each other.

Refugee Law
In regards to the refugee determination process, Article 56 of the Polish Constitution states:

– (1) Foreigners shall have a right of asylum in the Republic of Poland in accordance with principles specified by statute.

– (2) Foreigners who, in the Republic of Poland, seek protection from oppression, may be granted the status of a refugee in accordance with international agreements to which the Republic of Poland is a party.

Specific articles from the European Convention on Human Rights also influence refugee determination in EU states; Article 2—right to life, Article 3—prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and Article 8—right to private/ family life.

Thus member states must domestically create the apparatus (courts/tribunals and detailed procedural rules) to safeguard the rights which individuals derive from EU law. In doing so Dr. Chlebny explained two principles that govern national procedural rules:

  • Principle of equivalence: procedures that safeguard EU rights must be given the same weight and priority as procedures that safeguard domestic rights)
  • Principle of effectiveness: procedures that safeguard an individual’s rights under EU law must not be rendered practically impossible or excessively difficult to exercise

Refraining from setting high fees to apply for status or setting short, impractical time periods to file for status/ appeals are measures of principle effectiveness.  The intent of principle effectiveness is that the refugee should have fair access to the procedure. It is at this moment I pondered to what extent has the Canadian system embodied principle effectiveness?  In light of the changes of Bill C-31, refugee claimants are required to deliver a written version of the basis for their refugee claim in just 15 days after arrival. Many critics have stated this is not enough time for newly-arrived refugees to seek legal advice, respond to complicated legal requirements and gather the evidence to prove their claim.

Common European  Asylum System (CEAS) (2012)
An obvious question that lies behind EU immigration is, how does the EU prevent a refugee/ asylum seeker from “shopping around” the continent (filing for status in more than one country) “to get a better deal” (capitalize on those countries that have a lower threshold to admit outsiders)? Dr. Chlebny answered this by detailing the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).
The CEAS was to provide clarification and uniformity around granting asylum/ refugee status under 4 Directives:

– (1)Qualification- standardizing the criteria/ qualification to gain status/ protection

– (2)Procedures- setting minimum procedural standards to grant/ refuse refugee status

– (3)Dublin Regulation- establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application

– (4)Reception Conditions- laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seeker


Asylum System in Poland
Dr. Chlebny then turned to refugee/ asylum determination specifically in Poland.

In Poland there are 5 forms of protection:

– (1)Refugee Status

– (2)Subsidiary Protection

  • May be granted if applicant does not obtain refugee status and a return to his or her home country would cause serious harm from;
    • (a) death penalty/execution,
    • (b)torture/ inhuman/ degrading treatment or punishment,
    • (c) indiscriminate violence in armed conflict

– (3) Tolerated Status

  • Is granted via a permit if an unsuccessful applicant cannot be removed because it would violate his or her human rights such as being subject to torture/ inhuman treatment
  • This would contravene A. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • Hence tolerated status is an absolute protection (no exception can be made)
    • However, since this provision is absolute it can be extended to known terrorists. This raised a controversial question:  Why should the host society be put at risk by harbouring such a violent individual?

– (4) Asylum

– (5) Temporary Protection

  • Has never been used; would be granted in case of mass arrival of aliens to Poland (who have left their territory due to war crimes/ crimes against humanity) for a time period of 1 year, with the possibility to extend (no more than twice) for a further 6 months

Authorities in Asylum process

Table 2Table

From the 2012 statistics it is quite evident that the overwhelming majority of those who apply for refugee status are denied. One of the main problems Dr. Chlebny discussed was how to weigh new evidence. The fact finding process that corroborates an applicant’s case occurs at the administrative level. Decisions made at the Office of Foreigners and Refugee Board is thus based upon the facts at that time.

Thus Dr. Chlebny concluded judicial review at the latter two levels is severely hampered.  For one, even though judges in the Polish Regional Administrative Court in Warsaw specialize in refugee matters, they are limited to review the grounds specifically set in the appellant’s cassation letter.  Secondly, only evidence that is related to the facts that existed prior to issuing the final decision at the refugee board can be taken in account at the review. Lastly, the judge is not allowed to replace the evaluation of any evidence made by the administration with his/her own evaluation but must simply determine if the administration acted in alignment with procedural laws.

Hence the drawbacks of Poland’s system are that; the Refugee Board usually upholds the 1st instance decision and is consequently not a de noveau procedure, only factual situation that existed at the time of the final decision is relevant for the Court and no suspensive effect is granted during the appeal to the Court

 

Strasbourg the Saviour?

However, due to the multi-layer system in place by virtue of being an EU member state, appellants can appeal their status determination to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, France by claiming a rights infraction. This court has the ability to assess all material placed before it, even new evidence that accounts for a change in the conditions in the appellants country of origin which may indeed qualify him or her for some form of protection. More so, judges in the ECtHR may collect evidence by their own initiative. Lastly, during the time the case is pending in Strasbourg, suspensive effect takes effect and the appellant is allowed to stay in EU country they submitted their original application. Hence this institution progressively offers a final course of remedy.

Dr. Chlebny noted appealing to Strasbourg is becoming more common. A back log of cases in France means appellants have right to stay for extended periods of time in EU country he or she originally applied for status in. This runs counter to individual countries desire and also reflects inadequacies in the domestic determination system.

With that being said, I cannot help but think of this in our own context here in Canada. The Canadian refugee and asylum determination process may suffer from the same drawbacks as Poland, especially with regard to admitting brand new evidence in a status appeal. If this does occur we do not have a legally binding supranational court that can offer a last means of recourse for individuals to mount an appeal. Thus while the European Union has added an additional framework that complicates and even frustrates domestic policies of its member states, it also adds an extra voice of humanitarianism and hope for those in need of protection.

Canada’s New Refugee Appeal Division

David Vinokur, General Counsel, Legal Services, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, shared some of the recent changes in the legislation including the creation of Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) during his talk at York University on the 6th of February 2013. The terminologies and explanation of the legislature was quite law-heavy, which represented a challenge for my full comprehension of these issues. However, the following is my attempt to highlight the key issues in brief from the presentation. I also will provide background on some of the key questions asked during the seminar.

Starting his presentation mentioning and describing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which was passed in 2001, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act (2010), and the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act (2012), Vinokur debriefed the audience on some of the features of the new refugee determination system that came into effect on December 15, 2012. In the following, I list the key facts framing the new system:

Legislation involved:

  • The Constitution of Canada, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is the supreme document governing direction of the new refugee policy (as well as all policies for that matter).
  • The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) passed by Parliament; the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations made by the Governor in Council (GIC); and the Refugee Appeal Division Rules made by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) chairperson with approval of the GIC

Act and Regulations Preceding the New Determination System:

  • Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)
  • Balanced Refugee Reform Act (BRRA)
  • Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act (PCISA)
  • Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) as amended by SOR/2012-0252

Rules Governing The Immigration and Refugee Board:

  • Oath or Solemn Affirmation of Office Rules (IRB), SOR/2012-0255 (Oath Rules)
  • Refugee Protection Division Rules, SOR/ 2012-0256 (RPD Rules)
  • Refugee Appeal Division Rules, SOR/2012-0257 (RAD Rules)

Structure of the new IRB (main activities):

  • Refugee Protection Division (RPD) – Refugee Protection Determinations
  • Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) – appeals from RPD
  • Immigration Division (ID) – admissibility hearings and detention reviews
  • Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) – appeals from sponsorship refusals and removal orders

Key Steps in Processing Refugee Claims under the new system:

  • Eligibility determination for a person to claim refugee status is made by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)/ Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA)
  • If eligible, claim is then referred to RPD by CIC/CBSA
  • RPD hearing is held
  • RAD appeal is held (unless being prohibited under IRPA)
  • Judicial review processes held in Federal Court

*Other parts of the process may include the following: Minister’s application to the RPD to cease/vacate Refugee Protection; application to CIC for humanitarian and compassionate (H& C) considerations; pre-removal risk assessment is held (PRRA) by CIC for the “failed” claimant

NEW: Information Regarding Designated Countries of Origin (DCOs)

The new system now includes Designated Countries of Origin (DCOs); these are countries where nationals seeking refugee status in Canada will be subject to different deadlines and access in terms of applying/gaining approval for protection. Specifically, claimants from DCOs do NOT have access to RAD and have different time limits for submitting and processing their claim. In other words, these claimants will be subjected to and assessed through “fast-track” processes in comparison to other non-DCO claimants.

  • DCOs are divided into two categories: quantitative and qualitative-based criteria DCOs (see next section for more details)
  • 30 day time limit for an inland DCO claimant for an RPD hearing
  • 45 days for port of entry DCO claimant for an RPD hearing
  • No appeal to RAD, if the country is on the list (countries can be added at the minister’s approval; and countries can be removed in the same fashion as well)

***Time limit is 60 days for all non-DCO claimants

Criteria for DCOs

  • Under the quantitative criteria, the Minister may designate a country from which 30 or more claims are made during any 12 consecutive months in the 3 years preceding the date of designation and at least 60% of claim from that country must have been withdrawn and abandoned, or least 75% of claims from that country must have been withdrawn, abandoned, or rejected by the IRB.
  • If the 30 claim threshold is not met, the Minister may use qualitative criteria, including the existence of an independent judicial system, recognition of basic democratic rights and freedoms, and the existence of civil society organizations.

Criteria for Designated Foreign Nationals (DFNs)

  • Minister of Public Safety is able to designate any group, as described in the legislation, as an “irregular arrival” (including but not limited to maritime arrivals), and the members of the group then become “Designated Foreign Nationals” (DFNs);  the designation of the group must be made personally by the minister
  • Effect of becoming a DFN:
    • the government indicated that it has passed these provisions to discourage refugee claimants from arriving in an unsafe irregular manner and to end the abuse of Canada’s immigration system by human smugglers;
    • there are mandatory detention provisions for DFNs age 16 or older: first detention review after 14 days, but second review is then held every 6 months. Even if they are successful in obtaining refugee status, DFNs are prohibited from applying for permanent residence and sponsoring their families for 5 years.

Claims made inside Canada:

  • A claim for refugee protection made inside Canada must be made to “an officer” at CIC/CBSA
  • May not be made by person who is already subject to a removal order
  • The officer is responsible to determine within 3 working days whether or not to forward the claim to the RPD

Ineligibility

  • If previous claim was rejected by IRB, or if claim was ineligible, withdrawn or abandoned
  • If claimant has status elsewhere or came to Canada via a safe third country
  • Or if Claimant is determined to be inadmissible on grounds of :
    • Security
    • Violation of human or international rights (Crimes against humanity and war crimes)
    • Serious criminality: Conviction in Canada or outside Canada
    • Organized criminality

Referral to RPD – Duty of Officer:

  • Referral officer at CIC/CBSA fixes the date for the RPD hearing in accordance with the time limits in the regulations
  • The board gives the slots, officer then make a booking

Basis of Claim Form – Port of Entry

  • Claimant must provide within the time limit (i.e. no later than 15 days) a completed Basis of Claim (BoC) form to RPD
  • Extension may be given for this process under the “fairness and justice” provision

Basis of Claim Form – Inland Claim

  • Claimant must provide a completed BoC form to the CIC/CBSA officer at the time that the officer determines whether the claim is eligible to be referred to the RPD

Important Items to Note regard RPD Hearings

  • Board can accept, but not reject, a claim without hearing
  • Regarding Decisions: decisions can be written or provided orally; written reasons for decision are required for all negative cases and for almost all positive cases

Key Time Limits for RAD Appeal:

  • 15 days from receipt of written reasons for the RPD decision to file the appeal;
  • 30 days from receipt of written reasons to perfect the appeal
    • If the appeal cannot be filed, and perfected within those time limits, RAD may, for reasons of fairness and natural justice, extend those time limits
  • 90 days after the appeal is perfected, the RAD must render a decision, unless an oral hearing is held; however, if it is not possible for RAD to make a decision within 90 days, then the RAD must make a decision as soon as feasible after that time limit

Facts regarding Jurisdiction of the RAD

  • Claimants may appeal an RPD decision to the RAD on a question of law, fact, or a mix of both (Note: Minister can also appeal such cases on the same basis; DCOs are INELIGIBLE to apply for this process)
  • RAD normally proceeds without a hearing, on the basis of the record from the RPD
  • RAD may accept new evidence from the claimant only if that evidence arose after the RPD hearing, or was not reasonably available, or the person could not reasonably have been expected to present it to the RPD
    • However, that restriction does not apply if the evidence is presented in reply to evidence submitted by the Minister
  • If the Minister appeals a positive decision by the RPD, or if the Minister intervenes in an appeal made by the claimant, the Minister may file any relevant evidence at the RAD at any time before the RAD makes a decision on the appeal
  • RAD may hold an oral hearing only if there is a serious credibility issue arising from the new evidence that was not presented to the RPD
  • RAD hearings can be held either via physical presence or telecommunications
  • RAD decisions are normally made by a one-member panel; however, if the Chairperson assigns a three-member panel, the decision of the three-member panel is precedential and is binding on single-member RAD panels and on the RPD
  • Usually a RAD proceeding is conducted in the absence of public, however, it can be made public if RAD finds such to be an appropriate choice for the case in question, in accordance with the test in the legislation (note that a representative of UNHCR is always entitled to observe proceedings).
  • Claimants always have the right to counsel for a RAD appeal, but the Board will not fund this counsel (funding for counsel must come from another source); the only counsel who are allowed to charge a fee for their services are members in good standing of a law society of a province or territory, the Chambre des notaires du Québec, or a designated body (i.e., the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council); in other cases, family, friends or NGOs are allowed to assist the claimant if they are not receiving a fee or other consideration

Question and Answer from the Lecture (questions posed by audience members):

Is RAD already operating its activities?

Is there any pre-removal risk assessment procedure for RAD?

What RAD does for un-represented claimants?

What happens if the person does not speak in English, or does not have any money to be represented by a professional?

How the designated countries of origins have been identified?

Why does method of arrival matter for any refugee claimant?

How the claimant form is written or structured? What’s the format of it?

 

While this account only provides an overview of the new process for refugee claims, it suggests the need to further delve into the details of this new system to determine what areas warrant critical examination in their role and relationship to protecting (or not) individuals at risk and in need of asylum. In consideration of these changes to the system, I think that Canada may be on a path that perpetuates Edward Said’s Orientalism concept of “othering” those seeking refugee status in Canada, and thus paints a picture of Canada as an unwelcoming country for newcomers.

 

Deterrence Through Detention: The Implications for Asylum in Canada and the UKlth Clinic in the Refugee Healthcare System

The Centre for Refugee Studies and CERIS – The Ontario Metropolis Centre

along with the Refugee Law Initiative, University of London

presents

 

The third seminar in the

Centre for Refugee Studies (Toronto) –

Refugee Law Initiative (London, UK)

Joint Seminar Series:

 

‘Deterrence Through Detention: The Implications for Asylum in Canada and the UK’

This seminar on Thurs. Jan.31st, 2013 presented by Janet Cleveland of McGill University and Sonal Ghelani (a solicitor of The Migrants’ Law Project at the Islington Law Centre in London, UK) focused on a few serious questions regarding the comparison and contrasting detention systems in place within the UK and Canada.

Canada is known as being the ‘Immigrants’ country’; yet it seems to be that the restrictions on the kinds of immigrants that are permitted is growing stringent. The Government of Canada has introduced legislative changes to increase detention penalties. Janet Cleveland, a psychologist and researcher, walked us through the current situation and legislation based on her own research that demonstrated the effects (or lack) of the current trends of detention and removals.

According to her research, there are no clear connections to be made as far as detention rates increasing as Canada has reported a steady faced 43% detention rate for asylum seekers from 2004-11. Many might not know that from 2005-2008, Canada deported 12,000 immigrants per year, and the numbers have more than doubled over the last two years. There are designated Immigration Holding Centers that contain 72% of asylum seekers located in Toronto and Montreal; the other 28% of detained migrants are held in penitentiaries like criminals.

To make matters worse, many of these detained migrants may not have the ‘grounds’ or documentation to create a strong case to be accepted into Canada and as such are detained until their removal to their native country – despite the possible dangers they may face upon arrival. For many individuals living in Canada, the process of deportation, detainment and the refugee claim process may be a complex system to understand. Yet, the baffling part of all this is that the Federal government has the full power to use a lenient hand or cast the asylum seeker back into the waters from which they came.

On top of all this, Janet Cleveland makes note of the lack of Mental Health safeguards in place when these asylum seekers, such as the large Tamil population that arrived on the Sun Sea and the Ocean Lady back in Oct. 2009 & Aug. 2010. The severity of their mental and emotional states had been completely disregarded. During their interrogation process by Canadian Border Services, many reported traumatic testimonials of their escape from Sri Lanka and demonstrated PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Depression, and Anxiety – two to three times more likely as detained refugees than those undetained!! This kind of pre-migration trauma exposure should be taken into consideration during the processing of these vulnerable populations in order to maintain their dignity and on the State’s behalf to show more dignity in the alternative procedures available to these asylum seekers who feel highly disconnected from the realities they once knew.

This is quite detrimental to the kinds of support these asylum seekers can receive especially when the rest of the nation is unaware of their existing situation.

Sonal Ghelani discussed some pertinent details regarding the quality of assistance the asylum seekers migrating to the UK are receiving and there is great cause for concern here. The number of detainees that are being processed at a rate that does not allow them enough time to receive proper legal counsel, and for someone who has just escaped war or crisis, he or she is probably not thinking about making sure they have the appropriate documentation or passports when they are fleeing to a new country.

Ghelani also noted another issue that has surfaced in this process and that lies in the in-kind support that an asylum seeker has open to them. Italy, for example, provides automatic temporary citizenship or visa for asylum seekers allowing them the opportunity to find employment and housing which the UK does not do. In this regard, this nation-state is demonstrating positive integration methods that uphold the Geneva Convention and the UN Declaration of Human Rights that protects refugees with appropriate legal aid and processing to find the most humane assistance possible. In fact, if you are denied asylum in the UK, you will be unable to find employment or housing as an illegal alien.

As a proud Canadian citizen who arrived in this country on Refugee Status, it would be incomparable to think these methods of prosecution, detainment and utter lack for the forced migration of these vulnerable populations who seek asylum with these nation-states they hope would encompass more compassion and dignity towards their fellow man, woman and child. I’m sure many did not imagine they would face persecution of a different sort – by discrimination, isolation and overall disregard for their situation but rather pursue this detainment of refugees as a factory belt that sorts those with potential from those whom war and trauma have withered away.