KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Vincentians making bogus claims for asylum in Canada are being encouraged to stop doing so.
“It is not a good thing that we are going there and exaggerating this problem, which we are having,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said on radio yesterday.
He was referring to Vincentians who tell Canadian authorities that they are not safe here because of domestic and other forms of abuse.
The Prime Minister was speaking one day after an exposé on St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Toronto Star, the headline of which asked, “Is this Caribbean idyll the worst place in the world to be a woman?”
The 1880-word piece include a video in which Keturah Cupid, 43, details the abuse she reportedly suffered at the hands of her relatives and an ex-boyfriend.
A slideshow of photograph includes Omega John, 39, who said her right eye was blinded after being punched by her ex-boyfriend.
Gonsalves said the claims for asylum could result in Canada relooking its immigration policy toward Vincentians.
“What will change is that if Vincentians continue to make these false claims, … the whole country will suffer because Canada … will require visas, which they don’t require at the moment,” he said.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Legal Affairs, said Canadian authorities have come to this country and “see there is adequate state protection of persons who are subjected to domestic violence”.
He. However, said that Vincentians have told him that they “manufacture the evidence about abuse.
“I don’t live on Mars. … I know that there is domestic violence in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and it is a matter that all of us have to work on, not just government,” he said.
“And there are laws dealing with it but … we have to be careful that we don’t underplay it and we have to make sure we don’t exaggerate it, for whatever reason, political or otherwise,” Gonsalves further stated.
“There are some people in the system here, in the country, who want to exaggerate it …”
Gonsalves quoted a section of the article that said over the past ten years more than 4,500 Vincentians — about 4.3 per cent of the nation’s population — have applied for refugee status in Canada.
The writer contextualised the statistics by saying, “Proportionally, it’s as if the entire populations of Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador were to flee Canada.”
“Now, if you take a small base and you get a larger percentage, you then apply that percentage to a larger population to extrapolate,” Gonsalves said.
“I mean it is the classic misuse of statistics. But, from the time you see an opening line like that, you know what’s the theme,” he further stated.
Gonsalves further said that a Vincentian woman a few years ago showed to him a letter a Canadian lawyer had drafted to support a claim for refugee status there.
He said the would-be applicant, on seeing he content of the letter, refused to sign it.
“She sent me a copy of it. … I sent it out for [my staff] to file. So it’s part of the permanent record the government,” he said.
He further said that Vincentian lawyers also facilitate their compatriots wishing to make these claims in Canada.
He said some lawyers write for clients letters that say they are abuse victims but did not report the incidents to the police because of police inaction.
“It is all prepared for a fee here. That has to stop. People, over the long haul, will see that this is something, which is nasty to do. They know it is wrong,” said Gonsalves, a lawyer.
“I issue this warning, you can’t continue doing this repeatedly,” Gonsalves said to the refugee claimants, noting that most applicants are unsuccessful.
According to the Toronto Star article, last year, 710 Vincentians sought asylum in Canada, up from 179 in 2001, placing this nations of 106,000 among the top ten from which refugee claims to Canada are made.