The Jewish Refugee Action Network (J-RAN), a Toronto-based lobbying group co-chaired by former Canadian ambassador to the UN Stephen Lewis, opposes the current Canadian immigration policy on the way in which the country processes asylum claims.
One of the main issues of concern to the J-RAN is a Federal Government document referred to as the list of “Designated Countries of Origin.” Countries on this list, including Mexico and Hungary, are considered safe and democratic governments from where legitimate refugee claimants are unlikely to originate. Jason Kenney, former Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, explained that these changes were made in order to minimize the amount of time and money wasted from weeding out and differentiating illegitimate refugee claimants from actual refugees. As a result, the applications of asylum seekers coming from these designated countries are fast-tracked, and their ability to appeal the Federal Government’s rejection of their application is limited.
J-RAN is particularly concerned with the inclusion of Hungary on the list of “Designated Countries of Origin,” as the Roma minority and the Jewish population in the country may very well be legitimate refugee claimants. The Roma minority has experienced vast problems with discrimination are deeply embedded in both Hungarian history and current events. Tens of thousands of Roma were deported from Hungary in the Second World War to Nazi concentration camps, and few returned. To this day, issues continue to endanger many Roma, who may wish to request refugee status in Canada. The list with Hungary on it may prevent them from doing so.
As well, J-RAN is increasingly worried that anti-Semitic views that are on the rise in Hungary. They fear that many Jewish individuals may get caught in the same net as the Roma if they try to escape persecution and find a better life with refugee status in Canada.
The Jewish-Canadian community became extremely concerned with refugees ever since the events of the St. Louis Ship in 1939. 907 German Jews fled Hamburg on board the St. Louis with entrance visas to Cuba. However, when they arrived in Cuba, they were denied entry. After the St. Louis tried entering many South American countries and US, their final and last hope was Canada. The Canadian government at the time decided that this was not a Canadian issue. The passengers on the St. Louis were forced to return to Europe, where most of them perished in concentration camps.
After tragedies such as these, it is important to see that vulnerable people can come from many different countries, and for this reason, the J-RAN opposes the list of “safe” countries, among other Canadian immigration reforms. In a recent interview for the Globe and Mail, Lewis explained his motivation to challenge the Canadian Federal Government’s asylum policy. “We are people who have experienced such atrocious behaviour in the terrible period of the Holocaust […] It is very, bitter to see the government of Canada engaging in policies of refugee exclusion and refugee denial” he said. “I think there will be very considerable pressure politically […] to raise these issues and identify the flaws in the legislation, and to go after it publicly in a way that may bring the sensibility of Canadians into play.”
FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration, follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.