Footing the political cost of refugees
Written by Mansharn Toor, Policy Analyst of Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation
The international refugee crisis, has until recently, not been on the radar of many Canadians. Canada’s unique geopolitical position shelters itself from having to deal with large waves of refugees seeking asylum. That is, until the border of Quebec witnessed 11,300 refugees entering by foot from the US. These individuals are worried that President Trump’s anti-refugee and anti-immigration policies will result in the forced removal of themselves and their families. The result of this influx has taken a burden on Montreal, wherein, the city has not prepared itself for a flow of migrants. A warning sign that many Canadians should prepare for, as our world is dealing with major security issues ranging from Climate Change to the spread of extremist groups.
This week, Prime Minister Trudeau took a stronger stance on refugees seeking asylum by stating that his government will not fast track those individuals who have crossed the border illegally. While, Trudeau is worried about his re-election in 2019, his government should not slow down the process of seeking asylum. The current crisis at Montreal speaks volumes, as Canada is ill prepared to respond to those fleeing persecution, terror or civil war.
The Haitians who are entering Canada through the US, are seeking safety because Canada and US have a Safe 3rd Country agreement. This agreement, in short, states that a refugee is required to request protection from the first safe country they arrive in. Because Canada’s borders are not as porous as European counterparts, the country has not had to resort to Ritsona like refugee camps. Advocates are calling for the Trudeau government to suspend the agreement, as more and more refugees are applying in Canada once being denied in the US. 3 days ago, Trump announced that his government would send Haitians back home. Many of whom, escaped due to environmental insecurity.
While many Canadians will point their fingers to Trump’s anti-immigration stance, as they should, lets reflect upon Canada’s inaction. Often only 1 in 200 refugees who formally apply are selected by a developed country. This leaves many refugees in limbo as they fear for their lives. Refugees awaiting the decision on their application for asylum in refugee camps are crippled as they cannot work, gain citizenship, or attend school. At this moment, Europe, Australia, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have felt the brunt of the burden. In Europe, $35 USD is spent per asylum seeker and in Canada that number is about $48 USD. On the face of these numbers, Canada seems to be doing better. However, if you compare and contrast the rate at which Canada is welcoming refugees with that of European countries, the spending starts to look pathetic.
Prime Minister Trudeau, began his tenure, with tear jerking photo-ops as he welcomed 40,000 Syrian families into Canada and with the hashtag #welcomerefugees. While, nations with a smaller GDP, like Sweden have welcomed over 67,000 refugees in 2016 from Syria, Eretria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Like Sweden, Canada’s international identity is that of peace keepers. A role that the previous administration was reluctant to commit too, as Harper’s regime reduced the number of international troops and openly disliked the UN. Prime Minister Trudeau in 2015 ran a campaigned to reinstating Canada’s role as a peace keeper and a part of that role includes welcoming refugees who are seeking asylum.
Canada’s population, continues to worry economists and population specialist, as the rate of growth is not as fast as some would hope. While, many who align themselves with the anti-immigrant sentiment will argue that jobs, housing and social security will breakdown upon welcoming new Canadians, I am here to say, rather immigrants throughout history have contributed to the development and identity of the nation. That is not to say Canada shouldn’t prepare itself for a rise in refugee and migrant claims by investing in affordable housing, removing restrictions for immigration and by investing in social services to help the transition. To close our borders and remove hope, as Trudeau has done this week, contributes to an unsafe and vulnerable world.