Procedure is path to refuge

Editorial cartoon by Toby VanWeston

Asylum seekers from Turkey, Syria, and Yemen are risking their safety trekking through the cold to cross the Manitoba and Quebec borders in search of a better life in Canada because of the current political climate in Trump’s America. Here in Oshawa, we do not see any strain on the system. As a result, people may think Canada should offer asylum to those who seek it. But the number of asylum seekers will likely rise as the temperature warms up.

This influx will have long-term effects, which might not be beneficial to all. Those seeking a better life need to follow procedures.

Asylum seekers are looking for international protection. Their refugee status is undetermined, but they can claim refugee protection on Canadian soil. The government of Canada will protect those who are fleeing injustice or cruel and unusual punishment.

Since January, more than 1,000 asylum seekers filed claims of refugee status at the Quebec and U.S. borders, and more than 100 have filed claims at the Manitoba border, according to Stephanie Levitz of the Canadian Press. Although it’s a criminal offence to cross borders illegally, there are no charges until refugee claims are processed, according to Karen Pauls of CBC News. Since Jan., RCMP officers have caught more than 2,000 asylum seekers crossing illegally into the country.

Right now, according to Citizen and Immigration Canada, there are approximately 60,000 asylum claimants awaiting a decision on their claim. The average hearing will take place in 19 months.

According to Bill Redekop of Winnipeg Free Press, 65 per cent of asylum claims are approved in Canada. This is more than half of the applications. The problem is the length of time for processing. A backgrounder on the challenges faced by Canada’s asylum system, which appears on the Government of Canada website, says it takes four and a half years from the time a claim is made until a rejected claimant is removed. This is not factoring in wait times for the current influx. There are 15,000 claimants in the process of being deported from Canada. There are, however, approximately 38,000 asylum seekers who are unaccounted for and subject to an immigration warrant.

Rejected applicants run the risk of being detained by the government, or deported. For Canada Border Services Agency, this can cost anywhere from approximately $1,500, or $15,000, if the deportation is escorted, according to Pauls.

The influx of asylum seekers will cause a strain on existing social services. While waiting, they can live and work in Canada and have access to a range of social benefits.

According to lawyer Mark Benton, asylum seekers are overloading the refugee system. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has called on the federal government to act more on the recent influx. Pallister has asked the Trudeau government to help fund health care coverage, temporary housing, and employment income assistance, direct employment and labour market supports.

With political leaders closing borders in countries such as France, the Netherlands, and the United States, Canada needs to lead with open arms. This requires process as much as it does empathy. If Canadians figure this out, the rest of the world may follow.

Jessica Stoiku
with files from:
Euvilla Thomas
Laura Metcalfe
Logan Caswell

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Jessica Stoiku is a second year journalism student at Durham College. With a passion for writing, she enjoys exposing the arts and culture stories of people within the community for The Chronicle. She hopes to work for a publication that focuses on human interest and issues on a broader scale.

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