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February 2001, Volume 8, Number 2

Canada: Immigration Up, Asylum

Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Department reported that 226,500 immigrants were admitted in 2000, the most since 1993. The government's target is 200,000 to 225,000 immigrants a year.

Asylum. Central Europeans continue to arrive in Canada and request asylum--Toronto's homeless shelters were filled beyond capacity on January 17 after an influx of Roma asylum seekers from Hungary. The shelter system, designed for 1,870, had to find room for 2,000, including 1,250 children. The city government is asking federal officials to redirect asylum seekers to other locations.

Canada, which does not have the death penalty, has resisted deporting rejected asylum applicants who are likely to be tortured or executed if returned. Lai Changxing, the man charged with masterminding the largest corruption scandal in modern Chinese history in Xiamen, applied for asylum in Canada, arguing that he would likely face the death penalty if returned to China. Canadian authorities are detaining him while his asylum application is being considered.

Many refugees who fled war-torn nations with little or no identification have not been able to get the identification documents needed to become landed immigrants. As of 1997, Citizenship and Immigration Canada required refugees without proper documentation to wait five years before applying for landed immigrant status. In 1999, the period was reduced to three years, after representatives of the Somali community challenged as discriminatory the five-year wait in court. Under the new rules, foreigners without proper documents may use two sworn declarations attesting to their identity, one from the person seeking status and the other from a person who knew them before they came to Canada, or from a legitimate organization that has taken steps to establish the refugee's identity since his or her arrival.

Zen Ruryk, "Toronto officials are calling on the federal government to direct newly arrived refugee claimants to seek shelter outside the city," Toronto Sun, January 17, 2001. Jim Bronskill, "Ottawa relaxes identity rules for refugees," National Post (Canada), January 3, 2001. James Brooke, "Canada's Haven: For Notorious Fugitives, Too?" New York Times, December 29, 2000.