Sunday, October 24, 2010

Canada unveils law to curb illegal immigration

The Canadian government on Thursday unveiled legislation aimed at curbing illegal immigration and human smuggling by imposing stiff penalties and even detaining asylum seekers.

The arrival of two ships carrying illegal migrants over the past year "clearly demonstrates that human smuggling networks are targeting Canada as a destination and that they believe our generous immigration system can be exploited for profit," said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

"We will not tolerate the abuse of our immigration system, either by human smugglers or by those who are unwilling to play by the rules," he said.

The proposed amendments to Canada's immigration act would impose mandatory prison sentences on convicted human smugglers and put smuggled people in mandatory detention for up to one year while their backgrounds are checked.

They would bar illegal immigrants from applying for permanent residency for five years and terminate refugee applications from people who return to their country of origin for vacation or otherwise show they do not need Canada's protection.

The rules would also hold ship owners and operators to account for the use of their ships in human smuggling or other illegal immigration operations.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said this week his government was growing increasingly "concerned" about "mass arrivals through human smuggling."

In many cases, asylum seekers such as the hundreds who have arrived in the past year on Canada's Pacific coast aboard two rickety cargo ships, are seeking to "jump the queue and work around the system," he said.

He warned these illegal arrivals risk undermining public support for Canada's immigration and refugee programs, and was echoed on Thursday by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

"In Canada we enjoy the highest level of public support for immigration and refugee protection of any developed country in the world. But we have seen a significant erosion of that support since the arrival of the last human smuggling vessel," said Kenney.

"This unlawful behavior is nothing more than jumping the immigration queue, taking up space and resources in our immigration and refugee systems that should be focused on those who are legitimately and lawfully waiting their turn to come to Canada."

Canada, which has a population of around 34 million, accepts an average of 250,000 legal immigrants each year.

Border officials detained 492 illegal Tamil immigrants from Sri Lanka who arrived in August aboard the MV Sun Sea, a leaky cargo vessel. Another 76 were arrested in October 2009 upon arrival aboard another battered freighter.

Canada and Sri Lanka allege that there may be members of the Tamil Tigers -- a group Canada considers a terrorist organization -- hiding among the migrants. After a lengthy civil war, the Tamils were defeated by the Sri Lankan government in 2009.


Protests in Australian towns over plans to hold illegals there

Many of the illegals are fundamentalist Muslims from Afghanistan and fundamentalist Muslims deliberately killed a lot of Australians in Bali. Certainly not ideal neighbours

SENIOR government ministers have warned against public hysteria following an angry backlash against plans to move asylum-seekers.

Immigration officials were jeered as they tried to reassure residents at a public meeting in the Adelaide Hills that having the asylum-seekers in their communities would be a positive and rewarding experience.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson warned against public hysteria over the government's plan to build centres in the two states to handle rising numbers of boat arrivals. "Let's not start this sort of hysteria that they're somehow horrible, dangerous people," he said. "These are people who will be assessed using the normal checks that were put in place many, many years ago."

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen assured residents that resources would not be stripped from local communities, and extra resources for the centres would be provided by the government.

Residents of Woodside in the Adelaide Hills reacted angrily to plans to house up to 400 asylum-seekers on the nearby Inverbrackie defence estate.

At a meeting on Thursday night, many said they were concerned schools could be overwhelmed and crime could rise.

The Coalition leapt on the issue, vowing to push for a parliamentary inquiry to examine the plans for the centres.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the government had created a "rolling detention crisis".

"There are just so many people now that they're trying to accommodate, that the community of Inverbrackie, without any consultation, without any forewarning, has had this forced upon them.

"I'm just amazed that the government is surprised that there would be some reaction from the community when they haven't even been talked to." Mr Bowen "should front up to the community and answer the questions", Mr Morrison said. "He shouldn't be shielding himself behind Immigration officials who too often have to do the dirty work of this government."

Mr Morrison's comments drew criticism from Liberal Bruce Baird, an outspoken critic of John Howard's hard line on immigration, who held the seat of Cook before him. "They're creating myths and scaremongering, and I think that's unfortunate," Mr Baird said. "They're very vulnerable people."

Mr Baird, who is chairman of the Refugee Resettlement Advisory Council, said there was no reason for residents to be concerned. "When we released children and their families in 2005 there was concern that they would abscond and cause problems in the community, and neither of that happened. . . . They would probably be model citizens."

Mr Bowen said health services for asylum-seekers would be provided on-site. "Any additional teaching resources required will be paid for by the commonwealth, as they always are."

Mr Bowen said the residents' concerns about pressure on health facilities and schools were understandable and it was appropriate that the government respond to them. "We are working closely with the Department of Education and schools to ensure that families are accommodated at this centre with no adverse impact on local communities."

The Department of Immigration and service provider Serco would bring in medical experts to the Inverbrackie facility to care for detainees, he said. "There will be no impact on local facilities."

Federal Liberal MP Jamie Briggs wants to introduce a private member's bill establishing a parliamentary inquiry to hear the residents' views.

Mr Morrison said people were rightly upset. "These are not refugees who have been settled into the community, who have had their asylum claims proved. They are people who are maybe there for six months, three months."


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