Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sledgehammer against refugees

In recent days Jason Kenney, the federal immigration minister, has proposed tightening some of the rules regarding refugee claims.   I have these thoughts.

First, it is true that there are some who come here just for our generous welfare benefits -- in fact they have been known to ask at customs where they can apply.   But it is some, and nowhere near the torrent that is implied by the current government.   It's just like a tourist coming here and planning to pay for his or her visit by getting a job.     No one should tolerate welfare fraud, especially of this kind, but to imply that large swaths of some ethnic communities are trying to rip us of is a bit of a stretch; and hearkens back to the "Whites First" immigration policies that this country had for many decades.

Second, and leading from the first, is that while the rules are supposed to apply to all, it appears to be in fact aimed at specific communities.    Not the least of these are the Roma.   This is a bit of a double edged sword for me, because I am rather warm to both sides of the debate.

On the one hand, the Roma (who used to be known rather scurrilously as the Gypsies) are mostly coming from all parts of Europe and in particular the member states of the European Union.   There is generally the right of abode in all 27 countries -- that is, a citizen of any EU country can live in another without getting an immigration visa.   There are currently restrictions on those from Romania and Bulgaria permanently settling in the other 25 states (although they can of course work temporarily) but these will be lifted no later than the beginning of 2014.    And while some of the Roma claimants under the Geneva process are from those countries, others are from countries that are "all in" including the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

On the other hand, the fact that all EU countries are considered "safe third countries" make one wonder why Canada would be more appealing.    The climate of hate against some minorities is not that much different than in Europe.   Some might argue that those groups would actually be better off in some of the more prosperous EU states than their own, anyway.

I am certainly not arguing to severely limit immigration until everyone already here is employed again.   That's the kind of position taken by "Nativists" below the border, particularly the euphemistically named FAIR.

What I am arguing for is a more stringent line but still with an open eye for fairness.   Economic refugees should not get a free pass at all.    But those claiming persecution need to demonstrate reasonable proof their claim has merit.   If they are victims at the hands of the state, directly or not, then of course there is merit; if it's just their neighbours being bullies it should be somewhat more difficult to demonstrate but it should not be ignored either.    What I also think here is that where there the country being fled from is a part of an intergovernmental trade bloc such as the EU (Europe) or MERCOSUR (South America), there needs to be a very good explanation why the "safe third country" route was not pursued first.

And families should not be torn apart unilaterally, unless all were in the "ploy" -- however, in these cases there still need to be sanctions, whether it's fines and / or jail time.

As a sidebar, I do offer some criticism at some settlement groups as well as some women's groups who try to rally in the cause of those facing deportation without checking all of the facts.   As I said, there is no doubt discrimination has happened in many of the cases at bar, but nowhere in the reportage or editorial replies of the civil society groups are there any mention of why other options were not pursued first.

Refugees who are legitimate make contributions to our society that benefit us all; eventually they are welcomed as full citizens as they should be.   I know first hand the good refugees can do -- my father and one of my uncles are.   I also revile at those who try to take advantage of our good nature.

Scoring points as a way of deflecting criticism against possible voter fraud is too clever by first principles, and it won't work.  I am not impressed either by those who try to tear at our heartstrings.   For myself I keep an open but nevertheless critical mind.

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