KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – A Vincentian international law specialist says that based on international protocols none of his compatriots qualifies for refugee status in Canada.
“… all these young women who are doing all that sort of nonsense in Canada, tell them I say, based on that treaty of 1951 and the protocol of ‘67, they cannot and will not succeed in the courts of Canada,” Dr. Richard Byron-Cox said on radio this week.
The issue of Vincentians – mainly females – applying for refugee status in Canada, claiming physical and other forms or abuse at home, is once again being widely discussed here because of a damning report in the Toronto Star on the weekend.
According to 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.
But Cox, citing the 1951 United Nation Convention on the Status of Refugees and a 1967 protocol, explained why Vincentians do not qualify for asylum.
“… you have to be persecuted because of your religion, because of your race, because of your nationality. None of this happens in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” explained Cox, who is based in Germany.
“… no Vincentian under the present sort of government structure that we have could ever succeed in getting refugee status in Canada. None! Not a single one. They simply don’t qualify,” he further said, adding, “So all of them who are doing that, they are playing the fool.”
Cox further said that this country has a legal system where the final power lies with the London-based Privy Council.
“So, as far as I understand it, from a legal standpoint, that weakens any case you have. Because if you have a problem at home, there is a legal system that deal with it and if that fails, you go to the final instance,” he said.
“And the Canadians, like us, came out of that same system, too,” noted Cox, who also mentioned the different legal system in French-speaking Montreal.
Cox said that in addition to the courts, this country has witnessed a growth in “institutions and organisations that look over these things”.
“Vincentians, as far as I am concerned as an international law specialist, will not qualify…” he said.
But, according to the Toronto Star article, Steve Phillips, this country’s consul general in Canada, in 2008 wrote to support the refugee claim of domestic abuse victim Leila Brown Trimmingham, who feared for her life.
Phillips wrote that Trimmingham would require 24-hour protection and this could not be guaranteed given the police’s “limitations and challenges”, the article said of Phillips, who is also quoted as telling the Toronto Star “There are no political, religious or social conditions in St. Vincent that justify any Vincentian applying for refugee status.”
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, while acknowledging that some Vincentians women are abused, on Sunday urged citizens to stop making bogus claims for asylum in Canada.
“It is not a good thing that we are going there and exaggerating this problem, which we are having,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Legal Affairs, adding that if the situation continues, Canada might require visa for Vincentian traveling to that North American nation.