Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mexico, Israel added as 'safe countries' on refugee list

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OTTAWA -- Mexico, a country currently in the throes of an epidemic of drug-related violence, is no longer considered by Canada to be a genuine source of refugees.

It was among eight countries added Thursday to a controversial list now used by immigration officials to fast-track certain refugee claims.

The move could be seen as the first step toward lifting visa requirements for Mexican citizens seeking to come to Canada, as promised by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last fall upon the visit of Mexico's new president.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was in Mexico Thursday and informed his counterparts of the changes.

In addition to Mexico, claimants from New Zealand, Australia, Finland, Norway, Japan, Iceland and Israel join those from 27 other countries whose refugee applications are now being fast-tracked.

Applicants from so-called "safe countries" also lose certain avenues of appeal if their claims are rejected. Claims from Israel will be shunted into the new system, not including those from the West Bank or Gaza.

The changes are part of new legislation Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has said is designed to cut back on the number of fraudulent claims clogging the system and slowing things down for actual refugees.

A country must meet statistical and objective criteria to get on the list.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2013 A18

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