MCCC Calls for Improved Overseas Refugee Processing

Mennonite Central Committee
Wednesday, 17 October 2001

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Canada should strengthen the system enabling people to apply for refugee status at Canadian embassies overseas, says an MCC brief presented to a Senate committee recently.

Nathaniel Bimba of the Mennonite Center for Newcomers in Edmonton and Bill Janzen of the MCC Canada Ottawa Office appeared before the Senate committee studying the proposed "Immigration and Refugee Protection Act", on October 2.

Most other witnesses at the hearing concentrated on the "inland process" -- the process for people who arrive at a Canadian airport and then seek refugee status.

MCCC's brief, written by MCCC refugee coordinator Tim Wichert, stated: "it is understandable that refugees will find ways to come to Canada to make their asylum claims [because] in Canada they get access to an independent tribunal, fairer decision-making, a faster process, and a proposed new review process." Wichert was unable to attend because he was called away to an international refugee meeting in Geneva.

The overseas system should be at least as good as the inland system. MCCC's other points included a request that "family class" sponsorship be broadened, that certain categories of people, if once refused, be given a second chance, and that "terrorism" be carefully defined.

Janzen also told the Senators, "many people in Canada's 600 Mennonite churches would want me to include a word of thanks that this country's doors were open for them after World War I and again after World War II." Though the MCCC brief was well received, it is not certain that the government will allow any changes.

However, the Committee chair, Senator Michael Kirby, noted that Nathaniel Bimba was the only person to appear before the Committee who had come through the refugee processing system. Bimba, originally from Liberia, came to Canada in 1997.

For more information, or to contact Mennonite Central Committee, see their website at: www.mcc.org

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