In the wake of what has been described as heightened fraudulent claims for asylum in Canada by Vincentians and other Caribbean nationals, the Canadian government says that it intends to revoke the citizenship of at least 1,800 immigrants who allegedly used fraudulent means to become Canadians.
Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said most of the targeted individuals were counseled by three or four “crooked immigration consultants” on how to concoct fake proof of residency in Canada.
Under Canada’s immigration laws, a person must live in the country for three out of four years in order to become a citizen.
“Sadly, there is an industry of what we call unscrupulous agents operating around the world who sell advice on how to take advantage of Canada to break our laws,” said Kenney in addressing the Economic Club of Toronto last week.
“And there are some people – thankfully, I think a small minority – who are prepared to pay big money in order to falsely obtain Canadian citizenship,” he added, stating that the vast majority of the 1,800 allegedly fraudulent citizenships were facilitated by three or four immigration consultants. He did not identify the nationalities of the immigrants or the alleged fraudsters.
“What they did was hire crooked citizenship consultants to create fake proof of residency in Canada so that they can get citizenship and access to our health care and subsidized tuition rates,” continued the Canadian immigration minister. “But, at the same time, [they] stayed overseas without contributing to the Canadian tax base.”
By launching this enforcement action, Kenney said Ottawa is “sending the message that Canadian citizenship is not for sale.”
In a recent exposé, The Toronto Star, under the caption, “SVG – Is this Caribbean Idyll the Worst Place in the World to be a Woman,” said that the majority of Vincentians flocking to Canada, seeking refugee status, are women, who, it appears, are “fleeing domestic violence.”
The paper said that while Hungary, China, Namibia, Colombia and Mexico are among the top 10 countries from which refugee claims to Canada are made, “one of the world’s tiniest nations has started appearing on the list, a place many Canadians couldn’t find on a map: St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
The Star said that, last year, 710 Vincentians sought asylum in Canada, up from only 179 in 2001, and that, over the past decade, it adds up to more than 4,500 refugee claimants — “or 4.3 per cent of the tiny Caribbean archipelago’s population.
“Proportionally, it’s as if the entire populations of Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador were to flee Canada,” the paper said.
“Last year, this ‘Jewel of the Caribbean’ ranked 8th in the world for refugee claims to Canada, surpassing India (population 1.2 billion) and Pakistan (population 187 million). The population of St. Vincent and the Grenadines? An estimated 104,000,” it added.
“There is something very wrong in the relationship between men and women in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” the Star quoted Canadian Federal Court Justice Sean Harrington in a 2009 ruling.
“Year after year, woman after woman washes up on our shores seeking protection from abusive, violent husbands or boyfriends,” he added.
In citing instances of alleged domestic violence, the paper said “attacks like these have driven untold numbers of bruised women from St. Vincent’s white-sand shores.”
But, it said, of those who have recently sought asylum in Canada, only one in three have been successful.
“There are no political, religious or social conditions in St. Vincent that justify any Vincentian applying for refugee status,” St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Consul General to Toronto, Steve Phillips, told the Star, contending that shady immigration consultants have “duped” many Vincentians into making refugee claims.
“The fact that Vincentians are making refugee claims (is) alarming and disgusting for us as a nation,” he added, stating that those claiming domestic violence are running from financial difficulty, not fists.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Legal Affairs, has cautioned that increasing claims for asylum in Canada could result in that country revisiting its immigration policy with Kingstown.
“What will change is that if Vincentians continue to make these false claims, the whole country will suffer, because Canada will require visas, which they don’t require at the moment,” he told local radio listeners.
The prime minister said there is “adequate state protection of persons who are subjected to domestic violence”, adding that some nationals “manufacture the evidence about abuse.
“I don’t live on Mars. I know that there is domestic violence in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and it is a matter that all of us have to work on, not just government,” he said, however.
“And there are laws dealing with it, but we have to be careful that we don’t underplay it; and we have to make sure we don’t exaggerate it, for whatever reason – political or otherwise,” he continued.
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