Hamiltonians for Migrant and Refugee Health Denounces Minister Jason Kenney’s Expansion of the Designated Countries of Origin List
HAMILTON, February 15 2013 – Members of Hamiltonians and Migrant and Refugee Health (HMRH) are condemning the February 14, 2013 announcement by Minister Jason Kenney that eight countries have been added to the list of Designated Countries of Origin (DCO), saying that this leaves increasing numbers of refugee claimants without access to emergency or preventative healthcare. 
“The negative impact of the DCO list has already been felt in the healthcare community,” said Katie Dorman, a medical student and member of HMRH. “Volunteer health clinics seeing refugees have been overwhelmed with patients since the list came into effect, and the addition of countries means that increasingly there will be people living in our community without access to essential health services.”
The Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, which took effect on December 15, 2012, authorizes Minister Kenney to add countries that “do not normally produce refugees” to the DCO list.  Refugee claimants from these countries receive less time to prepare their claims before their hearing, are denied access to the appeal process available to other claimants, and are deported faster if their claims are rejected. Yesterday’s announcement adds 8 countries to the list, including Mexico.
The addition of Mexico to the DCO list is particularly concerning given the tragic cases that have emerged from this country, including that of 24-year old Grise, who was murdered in Mexico soon after being deported from Canada. It is clear that a country cannot be deemed unanimously “safe” when there is a real and disproportionate risk to women, individuals from LGBTQ communities, and ethnic minorities fleeing persecution based on gender, sexuality, and race.
Refugee claimants from designated countries are no longer covered by the Interim Federal Health (IFH) Program, except for conditions that pose a threat to public health or public safety. Since cuts to the IFH Program took force on June 30, 2012, health care providers in Hamilton have seen an increasing number of refugees who cannot afford their medication or who have been denied basic health care services altogether. Providers have also encountered pregnant women who have been denied prenatal care, children being turned away from walk-in clinics and the emergency room, and individuals who are being denied medications to treat chronic disease. The recent expansion of the DCO list clearly poses a significant threat to the health of many refugee claimants in Canada.
Hamiltonians for Migrant and Refugee Health is a working group of the McMaster Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG).  We are a group of students, healthcare providers, and community members who believe that health is a right for everyone in our community. HMRH is calling on Hamilton community members to join us in denouncing cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program, as well as Minister Jason Kenney’s recent expansion of the Designated Countries of Origin List.

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