Toronto: Rattled by public outrage over smuggling of about 500 Sri Lankan Tamils into this country in August, Canada on Thursday introduced a bill to tighten its asylum laws and impose tougher penalties on human smugglers.
With more than 80,000 refugee cases pending in the country, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney introduced the new Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act will to address the menace of human smuggling into Canada.
Since refugee cases take years and each refugee costs Canadian taxpayers about USD 30,000 a year, the public safety minister said, "Our government is taking action to prevent the abuse of Canada's immigration system by human smugglers.”
"The legislation introduced today (Thursday) will send a clear message: Canada opens its doors to those who work hard and play by the rules while cracking down on those who seek to take advantage of our generosity and abuse our fair and welcoming immigration system.''
Because of its very lax laws, Canada has become a hunting ground for human smugglers as the latest case of 500 Tamils shows. Each Tamil reportedly paid USD 40,000 to USD 50,000 to the smuggling ship from Thailand.
Worse still, it is very difficult to deport people from Canada even when their cases are rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board.
According to the country's attorney general, 63,000 refugees ordered to be deported are still in the country and 41,000 have gone missing.
Under the new law, illegal smugglers will be detained up to one year to determine their true identity and not allowed to live freely in Canada as the case now.
The new law will ensure quick prosecution and tougher jail terms for human smugglers.
The law also makes provisions for re-assessment of cases of those who succeed in getting refugee status to determine whether they can be returned to their country of origin.
"This action will help to prevent the abuse of Canada's immigration system by human smugglers, while allowing us to continue offering protection to the world's most vulnerable,'' said Immigration Minister Kenney.
First Published: Friday, October 22, 2010, 15:30