The changes to the immigration and refugee protection system under the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act (Bill C-31) and the Balanced Refugee Reform Act (Bill C-11) came into force on December 15, 2012.
This legislation introduces major reforms to Canada's refugee status determination system that are intended to deliver faster decisions, deter abuse and quickly remove unsuccessful refugee claimants. The bill also includes measures to strengthen the immigration system by reducing identity fraud through the use of biometric data such as fingerprints and photos in the Temporary Resident Program. The final component of the new legislation incorporates measures to address human smuggling and irregular arrivals.
The Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act continue to support the underlying principles of Canada's asylum system, which include ensuring fairness, protecting genuine refugees and upholding Canada's humanitarian tradition. The new refugee determination system also fully meets Canada's international and domestic legal obligations to asylum seekers.
For an overview of these changes, as well as other improvements to strengthen Canada's immigration system, please consult Citizenship and Immigration Canada's Web site.
This page explains the key measures the CBSA will be implementing under the Government's Balanced Refugee Reform initiative.
Under the Removals Backlog Reduction Strategy, the CBSA has received temporary funding, which it has used to hire approximately 60 officers to tackle active cases of unsuccessful refugee claimants in its current removals inventory. The overall goal will be to remove an additional 4,232 failed refugee claimants over a three-year period, which began in 2010-2011 and ends on March 31, 2013. The CBSA has exceeded its goal of 4,232 backlog removals of failed refugee claimants well ahead of schedule.
The CBSA always places the highest priority on removal cases involving national security, organized crime, crimes against humanity and criminality. This will not change with refugee reform.
However, one of the key principles of Canada's new asylum system will be the timely removal of individuals whose refugee claims have been refused by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).
Unsuccessful refugee claimants who have enforceable removal orders and who do not leave Canada voluntarily will be removed from the country by the CBSA. In most cases, the CBSA will remove individuals within 12 months following a final negative decision by the IRB. One of the consequences of not leaving voluntarily is that the person will be permanently barred from returning to Canada.
The timely removal of failed refugee claimants by the CBSA, as well as faster determination decisions, will protect the integrity of the system against those who abuse it, while still continuing to protect those in need.
To learn more about removals, consult the Removals Fact Sheet.
Many failed asylum claimants do not respect their obligation to leave the country, which leads to deportation, costly enforced removals, and a permanent bar on returning to Canada. Often this happens because people are unaware of the consequences of failing to comply with removal orders or simply do not have the means to leave or to support themselves when they return to their home countries.
On June 29, 2012, the CBSA introduced an Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) pilot program in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The program will run until March 31, 2015. The CBSA's pilot program complements the overall Removals Program by helping eligible unsuccessful refugee claimants who wish to return to their home country voluntarily.
Under the AVRR pilot, eligible unsuccessful refugee claimants are referred to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a trusted, intergovernmental organization, which will provide education, information and departure assistance.
The IOM coordinates with its local office in the person's country of origin, or with a contracted third party service provider if a local office is not available, to manage and administer assistance in-kind up to a maximum of CAN$2,000 a person. This assistance is used to pay for services intended to help program participants make a fresh start in their home countries upon their return. Assistance could be used for education, vocational training, job searching, or business pursuits, depending upon the needs of the program participant.
This modest incentive makes it more likely for unsuccessful refugee claimants to successfully reintegrate into their home country's society, helping to ensure they would be less likely to return to Canada. Similar programs have been successfully adopted in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia.
By increasing the number of voluntary returns and redirecting these low-risk cases to an independent service partner, the AVRR pilot program will free up vital CBSA enforcement resources for higher priority removal cases.