October 25, 2011, Ottawa, ON – Incidents like the August 2010 arrival of the Sun Sea shipload of asylum seekers have highlighted Canada's vulnerability to migrant smuggling. A failure to respond effectively to and deter such migrant smuggling risks emboldening those who engage in this illicit enterprise. According to author Benjamin Perrin in MLI's newest paper, Migrant Smuggling: Canada's Response to a Global Criminal Enterprise, there are three primary strategies that countries like Canada can pursue if they wish to deter and ultimately defeat migrant smuggling at the national and international level:
(1) Countries must take greater action to discourage illegal immigration and disrupt migrant smuggling through legislation and through international cooperation;
(2) Countries must establish more efficient refugee-determination processes and expedient procedures to remove failed claimants; and
(3) As a part of the solution, the international community should continue to develop a proactive response to the global refugee situation.
On the first point, Professor Perrin assesses the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act (Bill C-4) currently before parliament, and finds that while it would improve the tools the government has to combat such smuggling, much more needs to be done.
Perrin says that Bill C-4 more effectively targets the full scope of what migrant smugglers do, and includes minimum terms based on the number of people smuggled, whether the alleged smuggler harmed the migrants, and whether the offence was in any way associated with a criminal organization or terrorist group.
He also adds that Bill C-4 does not criminalize the migrants themselves; instead it provides for disincentives like delaying their ability to sponsor family members to come to Canada. According to Perrin, "This general approach is a necessary response to this serious phenomenon."
However, Bill C-4 contains important flaws, such as the provision that would automatically detain "designated foreign nationals" for a year without access to review, unless they are released by the Minister or their refugee claim is determined earlier. The paper includes suggested amendments that would, in the opinion of the author, help to ensure the legislation survives judicial scrutiny without diluting its effectiveness.
With respect to the needed improvements to the refugee-determination process, Professor Perrin argues that while changes have been made to streamline the process, careful monitoring of the impact of those changes on the delays and backlog in the system is needed to ensure the system is fast, fair and final.
On the last point of developing a pro-active response to the global refugee situation, he adds that Canada should continue to participate actively in the UN group processing of refugee programs, and encourage other countries to do more to promote so-called durable solutions to the growing global refugee population.
Benjamin Perrin is law professor at UBC and a Senior Fellow of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. He is author of Migrant Smuggling: Canada's Response to a Global Criminal Enterprise, recently released by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.