By: Graham Lane
Published: Winnipeg Sun, February 17, 2017
In the first 9 months of 2016, Canada issued only one visitor visa for a Somalian, only 5 in 2015. In comparison, 295 visitor visas for Yemen citizens were granted in the first 9 months of 2016. Somalia may be the worst failed state in the world, having that dubious distinction for now 20 years. Frankly, it must be impossible to always determine the good guys from the bad when assessing applicants from Somalia.
All overseas refugee approvals for Somalians are based on applicants living in UN Refugee camps, mostly in Kenya. There applicants are vetted by the United Nations and our own security apparatus, assisted by extensive input from the United States. Those lucky enough to have been granted a visa spent at least 6 to 18 months being analyzed from a security point of view. Successful applicants are either families or single women. Virtually no single men from Somalia have been granted refugee status when applying from overseas.
Last weekend 28 mostly Somalian asylum seekers simply walked into Manitoba. All or almost all single men. They were immediately processed and released into our community.
During the Obama administration, failed Somalian refugee claimants that made it to America were sent back to Somalia (Trump will likely continue with this policy). Under Harper failed Somalian refugees were only asked and not obliged to return to Somalia (anticipating danger back home).This means that any Somalians failing refugee claims in the USA can simply walk into Canada, knowing they will be allowed to stay in Canada, be granted Work Permits, and obtain the health and social benefits afforded to refugees – even though they failed to prove they were refugees.
Most Canadians are not aware that failed Somalian asylum seekers – regardless of security and criminality concerns – are allowed to remain in Canada (almost none being put into detention). If they simply walk into Canada- away from the border crossing – the country of First Safe Haven rule does not apply. They are allowed to make asylum claims without fear of being returned to the USA or Somalia, even if their claims of refugee status are refused.
Most of those Somalians crossing the border at Emerson are single men, most having already been refused as refugees by the US Government. While almost all entered the USA with passports and visas, apparently friends or agents tell them to throw the documents away when they cross the border to Canada. Fortunately, at least they are fingerprinted – we can determine who they are from FBI data bases in the USA.
We live just north of the largest Somalian community in the USA. Given the US Government’s growing concerns over security, it is likely that fewer Somalians will be granted refugee status in the USA. This means there is no end in sight of asylum seekers crossing our border at Emerson or elsewhere As the weather warms up, the numbers could rise substantially as more people prepare to make the trip.
Canada should and does welcome properly vetted real refugees – but the wave of walking-in Somalians strongly suggest that we should change our Country of First Safe Haven rules. Those crossing into Canada away from border crossings should not be given special privilege simply because they evade initial screening at the border.
Graham Lane leads Manitoba Forward (manitobaforward.ca).
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