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Blair says Tories ‘fear-mongering’ on immigration as feds move to toughen asylum laws

Blair says Tories ‘fear-mongering’ on immigration as feds move to toughen asylum laws
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Border Security Minister Bill Blair isn t backing down on Liberal claims that Conservatives are "fear-mongering" on the immigration file, even as his own government comes under fire from refugee advocates who say proposed changes would strip asylum seekers rights.

He made the comments during an interview with Evan Solomon on CTV Question Period, airing Sunday.

"What we heard from some of the Conservative critics was fear-mongering and an attempt to characterize these individuals somehow [as] a risk to the safety and security of Canada," Blair said. "It s mostly kids, Evan. Forty per cent of the people crossing are children."

However, as Blair continues his criticism, the Liberals are facing pushback from groups who work with refugees over a proposed change they say could tread on refugee rights.

The proposed legislation in question was folded into the pages of the government s omnibus budget bill. It would establish new sources of ineligibility for asylum seekers, who would not be entitled to have their claims heard if they had opened an asylum claim in another country, had already made an unsuccessful bid in Canada, had a claim rejected due to criminal records or had already had a claim accepted in another country.

People who work with refugees have warned that the changes would strip human rights protections from vulnerable refugee claimants,

The move has also got Conservatives calling for a change in tone from the government.

"How do you roll back the accusations that have been made continuously against Conservatives and anybody who indicated that they were uncomfortable by the way in which this was rolling out," said Conservative Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt on an episode of CTV Question Period, airing Sunday.

"Clearly they ve heard the messages that we ve been hearing from our constituents for the past two and a half years that there s great concern about the method by which people are coming across the border in the non-border entry points."

Blair said he s critical of the Conservatives painting the situation as a "safety issue." There is no safety issue, Blair said, but rather a "fairness issue."

"We have a responsibility to Canadians to ensure that the system is managed in an efficient and fair way, so we ve been taking steps to encourage people to cross at a regular point of entry and not to do it irregularly," he said.

Blair also spoke to concerns that the proposed change would mean people like Seidu Mohammed, who had an asylum claim rejected in the United States before coming to Canada, would now lose the chance to be heard. Mohammed, who fled Ghana for fear of persecution over his bisexuality, lost fingers to frostbite as he crossed the border from the United States to Canada .

Blair said the government will still undertake a "pre- removal risk assessment" for individuals like Mohammed.
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