Klaudios Mustakas – Senior Immigration Advisor: The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is tasked with the protection of Canadian society. This sometimes involves telling people who shouldn’t be here that they have to leave. Unfortunately, removing people who are not entitled to be in Canada is not as easy as it sounds.

First, unless he or she is stopped at the border, the unlawful immigrant has to be located. Then the CBSA must determine if they are inadmissible and, if warranted, deport them. But to do the latter, the CBSA has to know who the person is in the first place:

Michael, an African man in his mid-50s, is not exactly wasting away, and he’s one of hundreds, not thousands, being detained in a cell. He has, however, been locked up for 8 ½ years, in conditions he calls “horrible,” because the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is not convinced his real name is Michael Mvogo, nor that his native country is Cameroon. (And Cameroon doesn’t want him.)

As of mid-January, 66 other “inadmissibles” have been detained for longer than a year. One man has been in custody for 10 years.

Michael can’t “just…leave Canada” anytime he wants. There are cells, guards and walls to make sure he doesn’t, at least until authorities are satisfied that he is who he says he is, and another country will accept him. Until then, he’s an unwilling guest of the Canadian taxpayer, at a cost of $239 a day.

As this story shows, a major hurdle sometimes faced by CBSA is the need to confirm a person’s identity and then obtain a legal travel document to send them to their country of citizenship.
More often than you might think, illegals in Canada do not have any official documents to prove their identity. Some use fake travel documents to enter Canada. Others use a variety of names and identities to commit fraud and other crimes both in Canada and abroad.
The dilemma for CBSA is where to send such a person. In order to remove someone, you need to have a valid passport issued by the individual’s country of citizenship. You can’t just put that individual on a plane and wave good-bye. What’s more, the receiving country has to be prepared to accept the individual. In the case of a suspected criminal with a dubious identity, receiving countries are looking for any excuse to turn them away.
As for letting the person stay in Canada and enter society, when it comes to an individual whose identity is in question – especially since 9/11 – CBSA errs on the side of caution. They have to answer two questions when deciding to detain: Is the person a danger to Canadian society and/or are they likely to appear for removal? It’s very hard to answer either of those two questions when you don’t know who the person is. Are they a criminal? Are they wanted for crimes in another country? What are they going to do in Canada if they are released? Will they commit crimes?
The detention process may seem harsh for the individual, but CBSA is doing the best job that can be done under the circumstances for Canadians as a whole.

Klaudios Mustakas is a former senior manager with the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). He has 37 years of federal government service, including international diplomatic assignments in the United States and the Middle East. He retired as Chief, Enforcement (CBSA) in December, 2010.

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