Immigration Minister Jason Kenney invoked new laws for the first time this week designating a group of 85 foreign nationals as “irregular arrivals.”
Kenney told reporters all were Romanian nationals who were smuggled into Canada illegally on five different dates since February this year.
“Today, we are sending a strong message to those who are thinking of using the services of criminal human smugglers to sneak their way into Canada—don’t do it,” he said in a statement.
The new measure was created through the Protecting Canada’s Immigration Act passed last June.
The act was criticized for giving the minister additional discretionary powers—powers Kenney has said are necessary to respond to criminal abuses of Canada’s immigration system by people making false refugee claims after reaching Canada through smuggling rings.
The goal is to dissuade people from using the services of often dangerous criminal groups.
Sources told CBC News that many or most of the detainees are Roma. The Roma are an ethnic group also known as Gypsies who originate mainly from Central and Eastern Europe and whose refugee claims have increased in recent years.
The new act allows irregular arrivals to be detained until a two-week review determines if they are admissible as refugee claimants.
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