VANCOUVER — Canada placed Israel on a list of "safe" countries whose citizens are unlikely to seek asylum as refugees.
The move by Canada is considered a show of confidence in Israel. Though it places stricter regulations on Israeli asylum seekers, it is a signal that Canada considers Israel a strong democracy unlikely to produce genuine refugees, in league with the European Union, the United States and other western democracies.
Israel was among eight new countries to join the list of Designated Countries of Origin, which now has 35 nations. Countries eligible for the list are "democratic countries that offer state protection, have active human rights and civil society organizations and do not normally produce refugees," Citizenship and Immigration Canada said in the statement.
"Most Canadians recognize that there are places in the world where it is less likely for a person to be persecuted compared to other areas," it said. "Yet many people from these places try to claim asylum in Canada, but are later found not to need protection. Too much time and too many resources are spent reviewing these unfounded claims."
Israel's addition to the list excludes Gaza and the West Bank. The other countries added were Mexico, Japan, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia and Switzlerland.
The ability of citizens from countries on the list to appeal decisions of the quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) will be limited.
Amnesty International and the Canadian Council for Refugees criticized the list for limiting the ability of citizens from member countries to appeal IRB judgments, saying this was a violation of the UN Refugee Convention, Postmedia News reported.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government is seen as having strengthened the Canada-Israel relationship. In the fall, Canada closed its embassy in Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats from the Canada. The Harper government supported Israel in its conflict in the Gaza Strip last November and opposed the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations in September.