Immigration doors have exits, too

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Canada has come under some severe and well-deserved criticism for the way it screens people from other countries hoping to come here. Prospective immigrants and refugees are reviewed by single officers alone in foreign offices, with no right of appeal. Some of those offices have high rates of refusal, which is why some people say this country's system is ripe for abuse.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/08/2011 (4117 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Canada has come under some severe and well-deserved criticism for the way it screens people from other countries hoping to come here. Prospective immigrants and refugees are reviewed by single officers alone in foreign offices, with no right of appeal. Some of those offices have high rates of refusal, which is why some people say this country’s system is ripe for abuse.

Recently, a Federal Court admonished one well-known visa officer in Canada’s Cairo office for rejecting numerous applicants from Eritrea. Such examples of official condemnation are rare though, and most applicants, frequently sponsored by families in Canada, are at the mercy of the judgment and the integrity of individuals working (or skirting) the country’s rules.

The process is intimidating and bewildering to many, particularly those who simply want to come for a visit. In 2010, some countries saw all their visitor visa applicants refused, while others have noticeably low approval rates. Yet Immigration Canada insists applications are vetted on a case-by-case basis. Among other reasons, applicants, the department says, are refused if officials suspect they will not leave Canada when the visa expires or they present a security risk.

Dale Cummings/ Winnipeg Free Press

In pockets of Canada, some members of Parliament are overwhelmed by the inquiries, complaints and pleas for assistance from families who either see ridiculously long waits for relatives applying to visit or whose relatives have been inexplicably denied. Anecdotally, these stories of rejection are hard to square with the facts presented. But anecdotes sometimes describe the exception, and mistakes are inevitable in any system.

That is why it seems inexplicable that Canada does not track who and how many outstay their visas. That fact gives insight, however, into how visitors can go underground and evade Immigration Canada for years before they are nabbed and hauled in for deportation.

Immigration officials say there is no intent to track expired visas, but add that this country is watching the exit-control measures being adopted by other nations. Watching what happens outside the borders is not a bad idea. Keeping watch on what happens inside the gates is as important to the country’s security as it is to the integrity of an immigration system that helps underpin both economic progress and a reputation as a fair and just nation.

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