Backgrounder — Overview: Ending the Abuse of Canada’s Immigration System by Human Smugglers

Human smuggling is a criminal enterprise that spans the globe. It involves organizing the illegal entry of persons into a country in order to receive a financial or other material benefit. By charging people large sums of money for their transportation, human smugglers have made a lucrative business out of facilitating illegal migration, often by counselling smuggled persons to claim asylum in the country to which they are smuggled.

In particular, the human smuggling networks in Southeast Asia are large and growing. One smuggling vessel that reached Canada from Southeast Asia, the Ocean Lady, had a history of smuggling cocaine, explosives, and weapons as cargo. The fact that two human smuggling vessels reached Canada in recent years is proof of the reach and capability of these human smuggling organizations. It is clear that human smugglers are targeting Canada.

Human smuggling undermines Canada’s security. Large scale arrivals make it particularly difficult to properly investigate whether those who arrive, including the smugglers themselves, pose risks to Canada on the basis of either criminality or national security. Smuggling can be a dangerous activity placing the lives of those smuggled in jeopardy.

Under the proposed Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, the Government is cracking down on human smugglers by:

  • Enabling the Minister of Public Safety to designate the arrival of a group of persons into Canada as an irregular arrival, and make those involved subject to the Act’s measures;
  • Making it easier to prosecute human smugglers;
  • Imposing mandatory minimum prison sentences on convicted smugglers; and
  • Holding ship owners and operators to account for use of their ships in human smuggling operations.

Under the Act, the Government is ensuring the safety and security of our streets and communities by:

  • Establishing the mandatory detention of participants in an irregular arrival for up to one year, or until a positive decision is made on their refugee claim by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, whichever comes sooner, in order to allow for the investigation into identity, admissibility and illegal activity. The Minister may, under exceptional circumstances, order the release of a person in detention.
  • Excluding from mandatory detention, those designated foreign nationals who are under the age of 16.

Under the Act, the Government is also reducing the attraction of coming to Canada by way of a designated irregular arrival by:

  • Preventing those who come to Canada as part of a designated irregular arrival from applying for permanent resident status for a period of five years, should they successfully obtain refugee status; and
  • Preventing individuals from sponsoring family members for five years.

Furthermore, the Government is also reducing the attraction of coming to Canada by way of a designated irregular arrival by:

  • Ensuring the health benefits participants receive are not more generous than those received by the Canadian public; and
  • Enhancing the ability to seek a review of the protected person status of those who return to their country of origin, and who demonstrate in other ways that they are not in legitimate need of Canada’s protection or who misrepresented when they applied for refugee status.

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