POLITICS

Canada announces plan to fast-track refugee claims from Chile, South Korea

05/30/2013 11:56 EDT | Updated 07/30/2013 05:12 EDT
OTTAWA - Chile and South Korea have been added to a list of so-called "safe countries" used to streamline refugee applications.

The designation means that the Canadian government considers those countries unlikely to produce actual refugees based on a number of criteria, including the existence of democratic governments.

The designated countries of origin list was set up as part of an overhaul of the refugee system that went into effect last year.

The government says it's meant to help legitimate claims get through the refugee process faster while cutting down on false claims.

Claims from countries on the list receive hearings within 45 days and do not have the same avenues of appeal as other claimants if they're turned away.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says that applications from countries on the list are down 91 per cent when compared to the same time period over the last six years.

But the list has become controversial because it includes countries like Hungary, where many believe minorities are subject to routine persecution.

And critics argue the speedy timelines put in place for claims from those countries are unfair for claimants.