Sep 29, 2004

Thousands of Pakistanis face deportation from Canada

This is not good news from our benevolent neighbors to the North... who took many immigrants fleeing the persecution of their community after the PATRIOT Act was enacted.

IPA NY Voices That Must Be Heard:
Thousands of Pakistanis face deportation from Canada
By Amir Arain, Pakistan Post, 29 September 2004. Translated from Urdu by Mohammed Jehangir.

The future of thousands of Pakistanis waiting for refugee status in Canada has become bleak as Canadian courts increasingly reject their applications for asylum/refugee status. Last year, 41 percent of asylum applications were approved. Refugees whose cases were rejected now face deportation from Canada.

Immigration attorneys say that chances that these refugees will remain in Canada indefinitely are very slim, since the Canadian government has announced its intention to crackdown on illegal immigrants and refugees. More than 4,000 people entered Canada as refugees in 2003, the majority coming from the United States. According to Canadian officials, the Canadian Refugee Board right now is rejecting more than 50 percent of the applications.

The Canadian Refugee Protection Division reported that since 2000 more than 4,000 Pakistanis entered Canada seeking refugee status or political asylum, a peak after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Of the 4,269 Pakistanis who applied for refugee status in Canada in 2003, 1,614 were accepted, 1,800 rejected, and 373 went missing while 236 applicants withdrew their applications.

In 2002, of the 3,878 Pakistanis who applied for asylum, 54 percent were accepted. In 2000 and 2001, 61 and 64 percent of the applications were approved respectively.
Immigration attorneys say that a large number of Pakistanis apply for refugee/asylum status on the basis of being Shiites [Shia is a sect of Islam], arguing that because they belong a religious minority, they face threats from the fundamentalists amongst the Sunni Muslim majority. Those who applied for political asylum said that the Pakistani government under President Pervez Musharraf is targeting them because they belong to the Pakistan Muslim League Party headed by of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Canadian judges, however, believe that President Musharraf is taking tough measures to crush extremists and bring down the level of extremism in Pakistan by banning militant sectarian groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Canadian judges are also increasingly rejecting applications for political asylum. The highest rate of approval is for applications filed by women who seek protection and refuge from the excesses and violence of their husbands. Also, in the past three years close to 150 Pakistanis received asylum in Canada because of their sexual orientation; some reports suggest that the figure includes Pakistani lesbians. Applications by entire families – sometimes consisting of three or four children – often accepted in the past are now being rejected and the families deported from Canada to Pakistan.

Under an agreement between the U.S. and Canadian governments, Canada must deport back to the United States all those individuals who left the United States to seek asylum. Human rights groups have expressed concern over the emerging situation.

Translation © 2004, IPA, all rights reserved. Included by permisson of Pakistan Post.

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