Canada labels illegal immigrants 'war criminals'

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Amnesty International has urged Canada to think again about a list of 30 wanted men it went public with ten days ago. The organisation published an open letter to the Candadian government on Tuesday.

Ottawa calls the men 'war criminals', but gives no details of any evidence against them. Five of the men on the list published by the Canadian Border Services Agency have since been arrested, one of whom has been deported back to Peru.

All the men have question marks over their residence status in Canada, but the implication that all are now war crimes suspects is new.

Australia to discourage illegal immigrants

Australian officials will be filming illegal aliens being extradited to Malaysia. The videos of the rejected asylum seekers, whose faces will be blotted out, will be posted to YouTube and Facebook. The aim of the exercise is to discourage illegal immigration.

Asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran often try to reach Australia's Christmas Island in a dangerous crossing which has cost many lives.

Australia's Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has said he hopes that the videos will convince people traffickers and illegal immigrants that Australia will irrevocably repatriate asylum seekers to Malaysia.

The two countries signed an accord last week covering the exchange of immigrants and refugees. Human rights organisations have criticised the deal, saying that Malaysia is failing to take proper care of the repatriated refugees.
(Klaas den Tek/rk)


Labels stick
The list naming the wanted 30, who come from a number of countries (Peru, Guatemala, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, and Sri Lanka), includes photos of each one. Canada’s Public Safety Minister Vic Toews reinforced the ‘war criminal’ label in a statement last week. He said,

"Our message is clear: those who are active or complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity can no longer hide in the shadows."

War crimes or misdemeanours?

To make it onto the Canadian Border Services Agency’s ‘Most Wanted List’ - what criteria must be met? The CBSA told RNW:

“Individuals (must) have a removal order that is in force; have a Canada-wide warrant for arrest and detention for removal issued… and (that) the CBSA has actively investigated the whereabouts of these individuals using all the tools at our disposal with no results."

In other words, illegal immigrants who have absconded after their application for refugee status was turned down. Janet Dench leads the Canadian Council for Refugees and believes the current policy is flawed. She said,

“Technically speaking, people who are included on this list are people who could have been suspected of war crimes but it could also be people who are in no way suspected of war crimes or crimes against humanity, people who have nothing but an unfortunate association under Canadian legislation.”

There are many such associations which can be attached to an individual – having been in a police force in certain countries, for example – which will make a refugee undesirable under Canadian law.

The wanted list
“On the one hand the government points out how it wants to be tough on war criminals… (but on the other hand) … we don’t have any policy for making sure people are brought to justice… the Canadian policy is – let’s deport them,” said Janet Dench.

The coming days and weeks are likely to see further arrests and deportations of men on the wanted list. Despite serious question marks over the personal safety of such people once repatriated, a wider concern is currently being voiced by rights groups – that the list could engender the stereotyping and discrimination of the ethnic groups it features.