Former refugees face losing residency in Canada if they return to homeland

posted on February 23, 2015

By Nicholas Keung, Inside Halton | Link to Article

By Nicholas Keung, Inside Halton | Link to Article

Ottawa has slowly — and quietly — stepped up efforts to strip permanent resident status from former refugees who were granted asylum in Canada and later returned to the country where they once faced persecution.

Wielding new powers that came in with changes to immigration law in 2012, the federal government is now actively pursuing reopening asylum files under what’s known as a “cessation application” and forcing refugees whose circumstances have changed to leave Canada.

The number of people who had their protection “ceased” in 2014 was almost five times the number in 2012 — rising from 24 to 116 — according to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), which is mandated to decide if the individuals are still refugees or not.

An internal document obtained by the Canadian Council for Refugees under an access to information request showed the Conservative government has set an annual target of 875 applications to strip refugee status.

Officials dispute that there’s a target.

Advocates say the government initiative has created anxiety and fear among former refugees, who may sometimes travel back to their homeland to visit ailing relatives or visit for longer periods after conditions in the country improve.

The law does not quantify how often and long a refugee might visit and stay in their homeland to constitute what, in government parlance, is called “re-availment.” But Ottawa says individuals are deemed to have “re-availed” themselves to the country they fled if they apply for and obtain a national passport or a renewed passport voluntarily.

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