In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, Nigeria, and other places, many concerns have been raised about the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Canada, particularly in regards to security. This article is meant to give you some information about the refugee security screening process refugees undergo before being admitted to Canada.
No Safe Place in Syria
Syrian refugees are fleeing their country due to risks to their lives. Fighting between the government forces and rebels have become complicated with other groups joining the fight, including Hezbollah and Daesh (otherwise known as ISIL or ISIS). This has caused more widespread fighting and innocent civilians are getting caught in the crossfire. With the authorities caught up in the fighting, and much of the infrastructure in disarray, Syrian civilians are not able to get the protection they need within their country.
The process for sponsor-referred refugees
- This is the category that CLWR is involved with along with congregations and groups.
- These refugees are brought in at the request of relatives or friends in Canada who apply via the private sponsorship program.
- This process is facilitated through Canadian government Sponsorship Agreement Holders like CLWR. There is a thorough review and screening of the application before we consider submitting it for processing.
- If we submit the application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the visa office processing the case will do an eligibility and admissibility screening.
- At the interview they ask the refugee applicant questions to ensure accuracy and credibility and then the officer determines if they are eligible for resettlement.
- If approved, the refugee applicant must get police background checks from every country in which they have ever resided.
- The visa office also does a thorough background security check using the assistance of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). If there is anything suspicious the file is scrupulously reviewed and investigations conducted.
- A refugee applicant can be inadmissible to enter Canada on the basis of security, serious criminality, organized criminality or human rights violations.
The process for UNHCR-referred refugees
- These refugees are ones that the Canadian government is bringing in. They are called Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs).
- These refugees go through even more security screening, because it is done first by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). If the refugee applicant is found eligible for resettlement, they will refer the case to the corresponding Canadian visa office.
- These refugee applicants will also go through an interview process and Canadian security background checks.
- If there is anything suspicious thorough investigations are conducted, and the refugee applicant will not be allowed to come to Canada if any security concerns or criminality issues are discovered.
The process for Syrian refugee claimants
- Refugee claimants, or asylum seekers, enter Canada without residence documents and undergo the refugee determination process (similar to the interviews done at the visa office) with the Immigration and Refugee Board in Canada.
- All refugee claimants go through a front-end security screening. Through this process CSIS checks all refugee claimants on arrival in Canada.
- Since the screening was put in place in 2001, the number of claimants found to represent any kind of security concern has been statistically insignificant.
- It is also worthy to note that it is far more difficult to enter Canada as a refugee than as a visitor, because the refugee determination process involves security checks by CSIS and the RCMP, fingerprinting and interviews. It is not likely that a person intending to commit a violent act would expose themselves to such detailed examinations.
More than ever Syrian refugees need our support and Canada’s protection. If we do not let them come to Canada because of fear, we risk further endangering Syrian lives. Syrians cannot receive protection from the Syrian authorities, and other countries of asylum are closing their doors. As Christians, it is a moral imperative for us to help Syrian refugees, especially when security risks are so low. We have been commissioned to welcome the stranger on many occasions.
Procedures for processing urgent protection cases: criminality and security screening
The government of Canada has published policies, procedures and guidance used by Citizenship and Immigration Canada staff. We’ve reproduced some of that information below:
Once a decision has been made to accept a case for urgent processing, security checks should be initiated.
Step 1: Initiate security and criminality checks
The visa office should initiate criminality and security screening immediately following a tentative positive decision. Urgent background checks will require liaison with the Security Liaison Officer (SLO), whether at the visa office or in another location, in person or by phone.
Step 2: Refer cases to Case Management Branch, if necessary
The officer refers a case to Case Management Branch (BCD) for more investigation where there are negative results of a security or criminal background check. BCD can advise the officer if there are other considerations for admissibility and the officer should consider the information provided by BCD when making their decision on admissibility.
When cases are referred to the Case Management Branch for investigation, the 3-5 day target may not be met. An estimated turn-around would be determined by Case Management and the officer can inform UNHCR in the event that UNHCR may wish to refer the case to another resettlement country.
Please ensure that copies of the applicant’s IMM 0008, any additional referral information and any other information that can assist with screening are forwarded to the Case Management Branch.
Criminality and security risk management
On the basis of country conditions and local information, profiling and any other available tools, the SLO will provide an assessment of the risks to the officer regarding the nature and degree of any risk. The officer will decide whether any perceived risk outweighs the need for urgent protection.
Here are other websites which can assist in an understanding of the screening process: