With regard to the activities of the Canadian embassy in Tunis and Tunisian students who disappeared after their arrival in Canada:
(a) Most of these visitor visa applicants were full time students at the post-secondary level with adequate financial means to pay for a trip during their school holiday.
In order to ensure that this was a genuine visitor movement, the embassy established certain ground rules, such as the need for each applicant in these proposed tours to present the documentation requested and to attend any requested interviews.
A triage was performed on applications based on the criteria established; only applications of concern were interviewed. Other applications were waived the interview. In addition, measures were put in place to monitor compliance of returns to their country, Tunisia, by preceding groups before subsequent groups could be accepted.
(b) Media reports indicating that this was a student movement are inaccurate. In fact, this movement was a visitor movement comprised of primarily Tunisian student applicants visiting Canada as tourists in order to explore post-secondary educational opportunities in Quebec for the longer run. Thus, there was no need, nor possibility, to ask for acceptance letters or to verify registration.
(c) Information regarding the applicants’ financial situation formed part of the required documentation and was reviewed as part of the decision making process.
As all members of the first groups of visitors had returned to Tunisia without incident, the office streamlined the triage process to further reduce processing time. The profile of the new crop of applicants was similar to the first group, i.e. full time students at the post secondary level and with adequate financial means to pay for their trip.
(d) When Tunis received the first report from Dorval on July 31, 2000 indicating a problem with young Tunisian visitors arriving with limited funds and vague travel plans, the embassy responded immediately by cancelling the visas of travellers who had not yet departed Tunisia and re-examining applications which had not yet been finalized. The embassy also immediately terminated the service offered to this group of travel agencies.
There was no need to discipline staff. Any misrepresentation made on applications originated with the applicants or their travel agencies and not with staff members. Our review has confirmed that staff made a reasonable decision based on the information available at that time. They made immediate adjustments when information suggesting fraud surfaced.
(e) No. Employees of the embassy were not involved in the submission of these applications from the travel agencies. They processed the visitor applications as part of their normal responsibilities applying reasonable judgment for what was known at the time. Adjustments to their assessment were made within a matter of days when new information surfaced suggesting fraud. The system, which relies on check and balance and feedback, worked.
(f) The embassy in Tunisia considers all cases on an individual basis rather than as part of a group recommended by anyone. This is the procedure for all visitor applications; the visa office no longer receives applications submitted as group submissions. Interviews are conducted and documents are verified as required.
Closer scrutiny of visitor applications has been the norm since that time. All applicants, whether they have applied as part of a group or not, are assessed based on the merits of each individual case. This is reflected in the current refusal rate, which jumped from 13.77% in 2000 to 28.63% in 2001.
(g) In late July 2000 officers at CIC Dorval suspected that an illegal movement was occurring because visitors were arriving from Tunisia in groups of 10 to 20 individuals.
Effective July 31, 2000 the officers at CIC Dorval detained and referred for inquiry all Tunisian visitors who were not, in their opinion, genuine visitors within the meaning of section 19(1)(h) of the Immigration Act. CIC Dorval issued 40 report 20s between July 31 and August 6, 2000.
In order to monitor Tunisian visitors more closely, CIC Dorval also asked customs officers to refer all Tunisians for a secondary examination by Immigration officers.
On August 7, 2000 CIC Dorval ceased detaining Tunisian visitors and referring them for inquiry because the adjudicators in the adjudication division of the Immigration and Refugee Board had systematically freed and admitted as visitors the people who had been previously referred for inquiry. The adjudicators based their decisions on the fact that they considered these people to be genuine visitors. Having been admitted as visitors, the Tunisians were not subject to removal orders and therefore could not be deported.
The adjudication division of the Immigration and Refugee Board is an independent administrative tribunal.