Monday, August 16, 2010

Process refugee claimants, don't detain them

Yesterday, Ezra Levant suggested that we should have a "refugee processing centre" like Australia does.  Levant even suggested a location -- the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia.   For what it's worth, the Tamils who arrived in Canada last week are being held in detention centres on the Lower Mainland of BC and on Vancouver Island, as well as a vacant ward of a hospital in Victoria.

Several problems with Levant's suggestion.

First, the Queen Charlottes aren't called that anymore.   Officially, says BC, they are now known as Haida Gwaii.

Second, because of its abundant and unique wildlife, the area operates under strict environmental and development controls -- managed jointly by the feds, British Columbia and the Haida First Nation.   And it has a population of just under 5000.   There is no way the Haida would ever agree to their land being run over like that.   The US has its own immigration problems; France definitely won't let us use St. Pierre and Miquelon (off Newfoundland); and Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat), not in the EU but still part of Denmark, is also out.

Third, we don't detain refugee claimants like they are would-be criminals.   We may hold them to ensure their safety but they normally aren't criminals.  While there is a burden on applicants to prove they are refugees (and the threshold is a lot higher than it used to be), the burden of proof is still on the federal government to demonstrate that they are not.

Oz used to have a detention camp on the island nation of Nauru (really not a prison camp, more like a holding centre where applicants were still free to roam about the country) but then when Labour won in 2007 they closed it, causing a major economic headache for Nauru -- and the country now has one on one of Australia's colonies, Christmas Island.    Immigration, not surprisingly, is an issue in next weekend's elections with the Liberal-National coalition vowing to reopen Nauru if they win.

One concern I do have, expressed to me by conservative friends, is how the people on board managed to pay the $45k to $50k per person (about $20 million total).    One suggestion made is that they were funded by sympathetic Tamils already in Canada, either voluntarily or through extortion by the Tamil Tigers.   I would not be surprised if the Sinhalese majority government -- or fronts for it -- are doing the same with their brother community here to fund the persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

If either or both are true then it is really troubling.   It means organized crime has penetrated yet another vulnerable community in this country, and that is something that cannot be tolerated -- any more than when some Catholic Irish people in America felt it was their "patriotic" duty to funnel money to Sinn Féin -- knowing full well it was going to the very illegal IRA, ditto with Protestant Irishmen who did the same for fronts to equivalent "Loyalist" paramilitaries.

There are currency reporting requirements when cash or equivalent instruments exceed pre-determined limits.   But this does not stop people from circumventing the rules either by wiring amounts just below the limit (which is potentially illegal under the crime of "structuring" if the process is repeated).   Nor does it stop people using hawala, a system of money transfer operating on the honour system and mostly under the radar and which has come under increased scrutiny since 9/11.   Last I checked, brokers for the hawala are subject to the same restrictions as banks, brokerages and wire transfer systems and there should be greater enforcement of these rules.

What about turning back ships?

Seems reasonable except that our territorial waters only extend to 24 knots (44.448 km).    We do have a 200 knot (370.4 km) "exclusive economic zone" to protect our fisheries, and a 370 knot zone (685.24 km) to protect threatened and endangered marine species but that's it.   We can't turn back ships just because they have refugees on board unless we have a reasonable suspicion that an overwhelming minority, at the least, are attempting to invade Canada for the purposes of war or terrorism.

This is a truly pathetic situation that has happened.   We now know at least one passenger died on the four month trip, and there may have been an outbreak of TB (a disease which has been all but eradicated in Canada or if it's detected is fought by antibiotics and not isolation as we used to).

We need better ideas, and since provinces and territories share jurisdiction with Ottawa the field of immigration they may have ideas on how to cope with the front lines.   So let's hear what the 13 Premiers have to say -- they've been remarkably silent which is shocking.

But we don't need stupid ideas like using a nature preserve to encamp boat people, or detain them in concentration camps inland.   That's what we did with the Japanese and Italians who were already here during World War II.   Do we want to go down that path again?

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Anonymous said...

The bulk of the money came from Canadian Tamils living in Toronto, this of course cannot be proven, but, you'd be pretty naive to not know that. The majority of people on that boat will end up in Toronto, and, the boat after that and the one after that. It will cost Canada approx 147 million dollars if all 490 refugee's are processed, thats not including medical, housing and social assistance. Theres a reason that ship bypassed 20 countrys closer to them then Canada. And..its also very naive to not understand that somewhere at sea that ship took on more people and supplies. The anser is easy, but, its a hard one, and, its the same answer to the same problem that the US, UK, Germany and Australia have...send the ship back and the problem ends. sucks.

ridenrain said...

Genuine refugees would stop at the first available country, not make a dedicated trip directly across the world. People floating from Cuba to Florida on intertubes are refugees. These are migrants, not refugees.

BlastFurnace said...

I had to delete one obvious spam comment. Don't think I'm not paying attention to those -- they are marked and reported to Google and other blog hosts. This is one war we will win.

Michael Harkov said...

This is so disturbing, I can scarcely believe that it is happening and that NDP and Liberal supporters see nothing wrong -

A further indication of the fact that a high percentage of those we accepted were not genuine refugees was that large numbers went back to visit Sri Lanka while their applications were still pending.

Although their claims for asylum were based on the argument that they fled persecution in that country in many cases out of fear for their lives in one year alone more than 8,600 applied to the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa for travel documents so they could make visits to their homeland.

LPC, Ignatieff; NDP, Layton; and their supporters – WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!