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Cablegate: Asylum Claims From the Americas

VZCZCXRO4699
OO RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHOT #0774/01 1611753
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 091753Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7993
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 1319
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 1840
RUEHPU/AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE PRIORITY 0160
RUEAORC/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USNORTHCOM PRIORITY
RUEADRO/HQ ICE DRO WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 000774

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL CO MX HA CA
SUBJECT: ASYLUM CLAIMS FROM THE AMERICAS

REF: OTTAWA 645

1. (SBU) Summary: Mexican citizens are now the largest
single nationality claiming asylum in Canada, increasingly
citing narco-violence instead of sexual discrimination.
Haiti, Colombia, and the United States follow as source
countries; the four countries account for 50% of asylum
claims in Canada. Colombian and Haitian claimants are
notably more successful than Mexicans, since many of the
claims of drug-related persecution appear not to be credible.
An increasingly mobile Mexican middle class seeking
opportunities elsewhere as well as loopholes in the
U.S.-Canada Third Country Agreement present continued
bilateral challenges. End summary.

THE MEXICAN/CANADIAN AXIS
-------------------------

2. (SBU) According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada's
(CIC) Asylum Policy Program, Canada since 2005 has seen more
asylum claims from Mexican citizens than from any other
nationality (reftel), receiving more than 7,000 Mexican
claims in 2007 and an additional 2,400 claims in the first
four months of 2008 alone, up from only 2,900 in 2004. Among
2008 claimants, approximately 53% applied at airports, 45%
applied inland, and only 1% applied at a land border. CIC
attributes the rise in Mexican asylum claims -- especially at
airports -- to the growing Mexican middle class, which is
able to fly to Canada in search of better economic
opportunities. There are also increasing numbers of
temporary foreign workers from Mexico in Canada, who often
also seek to remain permanently.

3. (SBU) Discrimination based on sexual orientation had been
the most common claim of applicants in 2005, but increasingly
the claims cite risk of life, torture, or punishment due to
drug-related violence. One Canadian psychiatrist described
to poloff a sharp rise over the past two years in Mexican
patients claiming post-traumatic stress disorder; virtually
all cases appear spurious. Overall, Canada accepts only
approximately 10% of Mexican applicants -- a low rate
compared to applicants from other countries. The highest
percent of successful claims is related to domestic violence
-- usually involving women who say Mexican police have failed
to protect them from abusive husbands, sometimes even
assisting in the abuse. Canada's Immigration and Refugee
Board (IRB), an independent administrative tribunal, sent a
fact-finding mission to Mexico in November 2006 to determine
the credibility of claims related to witnesses of crimes,
public-sector corruption, domestic violence, and
discrimination based on sexual orientation. In February
2007, researchers issued guidelines to help adjudicators
determine the validity of claims, and the approval rates have
subsequently declined.

4. (SBU) Some Mexicans submit asylum claims when they first
arrive in Canada, but withdraw them after they receive
authorization to work or study; Mexicans also have the
highest rate of abandonment of applications. The Safe Third
Country Agreement does not apply to individuals already in
Canada or those who arrive by air or water -- or if an
applicant has a relative who is a Canadian citizen, permanent
resident, or protected person, or, in some cases, who has a
work or study permit.

5. (SBU) According to the Mexican Embassy, the Mexican
Q5. (SBU) According to the Mexican Embassy, the Mexican
government believes that Canada's acceptance rate of Mexican
asylum seekers is "unreasonably high," and that the vast
majority of claims are not credible.

AND THEN HAITI AND COLOMBIA
---------------------------

6. (SBU) Haiti is the second largest source of asylum claims
in Canada. Haitians, who are protected by a moratorium on
deportations from Canada and thus also are not subject to the
Safe Third Country Agreement, submitted 3,713 asylum claims
in Canada in 2007. During the first four months of 2008, an
additional 1,371 Haitians submitted asylum claims, of whom
93% arrived via the U.S. Virtually all Haitians claiming
asylum in Canada have lived in the U.S. for a number of years
and have relatively high socio-economic status. Canada
accepts approximately 40% of Haitian asylum claims.


OTTAWA 00000774 002 OF 002


7. (SBU) Colombia is Canada's third largest source of asylum
claims. Canada accepted 1,013 claims in the first four
months of 2008, of whom 55% submitted inland and 42% at a
land border. Asylum claims from Colombia have risen 91% in
the first five months of 2008, compared with the first five
months of 2007. Canada approves a relatively high percent of
Colombian asylum claimants -- approximately 60%. Colombian
asylum-seekers range from low-level workers employed by drug
cartels, to upper-class Colombians. The majority of cases
involve claims related to narco-violence and instability.
According to the Colombian Embassy, most claimants come from
conflict zones and include former military, para-militaries,
and individuals fleeing violence. The Colombian government
accepts that many have a legitimate fear of persecution,
while believing that most could probably find a region of
Colombia where they would not be in harm's way. Some in the
44,000-person Colombian community in Canada have recently
begun to return to Colombia as the violence abates, leading
the Colombian Embassy to predict that the Canadian government
will be more restrictive with claimants in the future.

EVEN FROM THE U.S.
------------------

8. (SBU) Asylum seekers from the U.S. are also on the rise in
Canada, representing the fourth highest source of claims.
Nearly 1,000 U.S. citizens filed asylum claims in Canada in
2007, and 794 more have submitted claims during the first
four months of 2008. The majority of American claimants were
children of parents who had been living in the U.S.
illegally, and eventually decided to claim asylum in Canada,
along with their children. The majority of these families
were originally from Haiti or Colombia, so some of the
statistics might double-count them. While Canada initially
classifies the U.S. citizen children as U.S. claimants, later
in the adjudication process it groups family members together
in one case, rendering it impossible to calculate the exact
percent of purely U.S. claims. The IRB, however, estimated
that Canada approves approximately only 5% of U.S. citizen
asylum claims. About 40 claims have come from U.S. soldiers
fleeing the Iraq war, but Canada had not approved any, and
the Canadian Supreme Court recently rejected deserters'
claims to asylum.

COMMENT
-------

9. (SBU) The cross-border travel of many of these claimants
highlights the need for continued close coordination between
the U.S. and Canada on these policies -- as well as some
notable loopholes in the Safe Third Agreement -- as continued
challenges to both governments seeking to help legitimate
claimants while stopping bogus asylum shoppers.

Visit Canada,s Economy and Environment Forum at
http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/can ada

BREESE

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