Evidence of meeting #125 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was migration.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Matt DeCourcey  Fredericton, Lib.
Jati Sidhu  Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, Lib.
Excellency Peteris Ustubs  Ambassador, Delegation of the European Union to Canada
Salma Zahid  Scarborough Centre, Lib.
Sheila Malcolmson  Nanaimo—Ladysmith, NDP
Ramez Ayoub  Thérèse-De Blainville, Lib.

4:20 p.m.

Peteris Ustubs

What Germany is doing would be best for the Germans to answer, because that's a national activity. That's not from the EU's perspective. Individual countries are tackling it in each case; that's the responsibility of the individual EU member states. There is not much we can say from the EU's perspective.

In terms of the internal political debates as well as the activities undertaken by the German ministries and the services involved, first of all they do enormous allocations of people to make sure that the number of people involved in addressing the applications and processing them has been drastically increased over the last couple of years. To tackle that particular problem was the number one issue for the German system.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

In your opening remarks you mentioned fast integration and skills, and matching those asylum seekers or immigrants going there. Does the EU have a process to speed migration processes while maintaining security?

4:20 p.m.

Peteris Ustubs

Economic opportunities and openness of European businesses have been high on the agenda for many EU member states to make sure the opportunities in economic sectors and activities are open to the migrants. The track record among different EU member states will differ. In some member states—not naming them—this activity had very good results, and the migrants found jobs relatively easily. In some other places that took far longer, with not-so-active participation from the businesses themselves. I think how they approach the migration issues in general is because of the previous culture in different countries, which, let's say, might have held back some businesses from being active in that activity.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

We need to end there. Thank you. We ran a little over on the other side.

I want to ask one question about Venezuela.

The migrants coming out of Venezuela are largely going to other South American countries and into Central America. I've been told a number of people are going to Europe from Venezuela, about half a million. I'm wondering whether you have any information on that. I heard it was Scotland in particular, which is still part of the EU this week.

4:25 p.m.

Peteris Ustubs

You are very pessimistic, somehow.

I don't have the deadline of this week. I think this might still last for 2019. That's a different hearing.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

I have Scottish background; I would support that.

4:25 p.m.

Peteris Ustubs

Yes, I know.

Concerning Venezuela, there are two things there. I know Mr. Grandi, who is the UN high commissioner for migration, visited the region earlier last week. He actually participated in debates yesterday in the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, as he comes from the region around Venezuela, to make sure that EU member states and ministers of foreign affairs are well informed on the increasing migration problem in the region.

You asked about the EU, and that is pre-crisis, I would say. In 2017, the highest number of Venezuelans were in Spain. That was approximately 12,000 people. That said, you need to know also that many Venezuelans have double citizenship. That would be Portuguese and Spanish citizenships. I would say if Venezuela were to enter an even more volatile situation, that would be a significant problem for the EU, because we would need to take care of the EU citizens.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you.

Mr. Tilson, you have five minutes.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Thank you.

We've listened to the Bulgarians who wanted to put up a wall, although the Bulgarian ambassador assured me it was a fence. Denmark had talked about reinstituting border security, returning to border security. I've talked to British members of Parliament, and they've said that this migration problem is one of the many reasons for Brexit.

In the case of the Germans, of course Dr. Merkel said she welcomed all kinds of people. Then of course there are stories in the media today that one of her partners in the coalition went too far to the right and was just saying no, that they don't want anybody. That had an effect on the Bavarian elections.

There is obviously a dispute in many different ways among the member states. My question is this: to create European policy, how is the EU dealing with these differences, most of which are negative?

4:25 p.m.

Peteris Ustubs

I should say that the debates in the European Union, imagining the 28 EU member states around the table, are not always easy ones, as there are different players and voices around the table.

Having said that, I should say that in 2015 and 2016, when the crisis hit the door of the EU, I was positively surprised by the speed in those circumstances, by how quickly the EU reacted and how quickly the EU took decisions.

Having said that, of course the political impact might take a certain time to reach the level of political reality. Probably now we see it in different kinds of elections, whether they are in Sweden, Germany, Denmark or Bulgaria.

I would assume that probably politicians in some of the EU member states will become more prudent regarding the migration issues. At the same time, the general trust in the room is that we need to improve our system and management, but this is not about closing the borders.

There might be different kinds of voices around, and of course different political players will use their voices. However, it is more about the capacity of handling it, and return policies—because not everyone who arrives in the EU is eligible to stay in the EU—and making sure those who need it get protection and not everyone who arrives gets the jobs. That type of debate will continue.

It will become more difficult in terms of the political landscape in the EU. Up to now, I see that actually the EU was not paralyzed in taking decisions when it comes to asylum and migration.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

I have one more question, Mr. Chairman.

As you probably know, in Canada we have these illegal asylum seekers from the United States. The government will call them irregular asylum seekers. The issue that comes particularly in the cities of Toronto and Montreal is who pays. The Province of Ontario, the Province of Quebec, the City of Toronto, the City of Montreal say, “You caused all this, Mr. Prime Minister; you pay.” They have paid some, but not enough.

It reminds me of the migrants that come across the Mediterranean, particularly to Italy and Greece, where the issue was that the Italians and the Greeks would say, “The cost to us is awful compared to what it is in Sweden or other countries.” That issue was raised a number of years ago. The southern states said, “You aren't sharing in the cost.”

Can you brief us on whether that issue has been resolved? If so, how did it get resolved?

4:30 p.m.

Peteris Ustubs

One of the replies from the EU side—and I'm not saying it is perfect or the most successful one—is internal resettlement. It is the agreement between EU member states on proportionally how many migrants they would take from those countries that are the most exposed, namely Italy and Greece.

Of course, there are a number of member states who successfully implemented what they promised. There are others who unsuccessfully performed. There are others who actually brought the European Union member states as institutions to the European Court of Justice, saying it was illegal.

From one side, there was a decision taken by the EU that they will do it and will have the resettlements. They agreed on the numbers that everyone would accept. At the same time, the implementation side was slightly lagging behind.

There is something we can continue to improve in order to make sure the resettlement actually functions. Resettlement within the EU between member states is somehow the reply of solidarity between the EU member states.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

You have given an excellent summary of what's going on in Europe, Mr. Ambassador. We thank you very much.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you.

We started a little bit late because of the vote; however, I will give you two minutes, Mr. Ayoub.

October 16th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.

Ramez Ayoub Thérèse-De Blainville, Lib.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

You may have a short preamble.

4:30 p.m.

Thérèse-De Blainville, Lib.

Ramez Ayoub

That is very generous of you. I will try to be brief.

Thank you for being here, Your Excellency.

I am interested in your opinion. Based on your experience in the European Union, is there an immigration crisis in Canada now?

4:30 p.m.

H.E. Peteris Ustubs

Thank you for your question.

Crises are not all the same size. They can also be assessed in different ways. It depends on experience and the arrival of migrants to the country.

If I make the comparison between different EU member states and Canada, what the EU experienced in 2015 and 2016, of course, are by far the bigger numbers. From that pure perspective I would say that it was a crisis and that probably the current numbers of irregular migrants that Canada receives might be low.

Having said that, each individual case is completely different. We can't make the comparison.

4:35 p.m.

Thérèse-De Blainville, Lib.

Ramez Ayoub

Thank you.

You are familiar with the Canada-U.S. Third Safe Country Agreement. What do you think of this agreement in terms of immigration?

4:35 p.m.

Peteris Ustubs

I would say that it is internal politics between the two countries to make sure what kinds of definitions are used—for example, safe countries and safe returns. We have exactly the same kind of conversations in Europe specifically concerning the third countries, and I know how complex those conversations are.

I don't have a good answer to give to the discussions you have between the U.S. and Canada.

4:35 p.m.

Thérèse-De Blainville, Lib.

Ramez Ayoub

Could I have your opinion on what happens in Europe when such an agreement exists?

4:35 p.m.

Peteris Ustubs

We have a lot of discussions on safe returns with different types of countries. One example I would like to mention is Turkey, because we discussed safe returns and agreements with Turkey specifically after the events in 2016 and 2017 in that country—that is, what kind of definition we should have for that particular country.

There is always a debate on safe returns. When we discuss readmission agreements, that always comes to the front. We are trying to make sure that the definition is well interpreted and well implemented when it comes to the safe returns.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Rob Oliphant

Thank you very much, Your Excellency, for your generosity and your time.

I suspect we may come back to your office on this study to see if you have other information we may find helpful.

We're going to suspend for a few minutes, and then we'll move into an in camera meeting.

[Proceedings continue in camera]