Jamaica tops the list of countries holding up Canada’s attempts to deport criminals to their home countries, according to data obtained by Global News.
The figures show 50 Jamaican citizens under deportation orders for serious crimes are still in Canada because the Jamaican government won’t cooperate.
The Canada Border Services Agency statistics say the sole impediment to their removals is that the Jamaican authorities have not issued travel documents to them. In one case, a Jamaican citizen being deported for ties to organized crime has not been removed for the same reason, the newly-released figures show.
Ordered Out But Still Here:
“You can’t fault Jamaica because they almost lost control of their streets recently,” said Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.
The Jamaican government deployed the military to city streets in January to deal with violent crime, prompting Global Affairs Canada to warn Canadians visiting Montego Bay to limit their movements.
“When you’re facing that type of domestic challenge, you don’t want to add fuel to the fire by importing from Canada, additional criminals,” Kurland said.
Jamaica’s place at the top of the list should come as no surprise, Kurland said.
“They have a pre-existing gang and criminality problem there. Traditionally, they have delayed, or stopped altogether, receipt of deportees from Canada,” he said.
Global News reported this week that the Canadian government has been struggling to deport foreign citizens for serious crimes, security, organized crime and human rights abuses.
WATCH: Top countries refusing to issue travel documents for persons deemed public safety or security risk
The most common impediment to deportations is that foreign governments are not issuing travel documents allowing their own citizens to return.
The Jamaican High Commission in Ottawa did not respond to interview requests.
The list, obtained exclusively by Global News, identifies the countries impeding high priority deportations. Jamaica is first, Cuba is second with 48 cases, followed by India (34), China (31) and Iran (27).
Almost 500 deportations for serious crimes, as well as 15 for organized crime, are being held up by travel document issues, the figures show.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government is working with its international partners to address foreign governments not issuing travel documents.
“We are raising this not only with other departments within the government of Canada which can be helpful in developing leverage to get the necessary travel documents but we are also working with other countries around the world,” Goodale said in Ottawa Wednesday.
Kurland said Ottawa should be sensitive to the needs of countries that lack the infrastructure to accept deported criminals, but he also said a tougher approach was warranted with some countries.
“When it comes to other countries, big question mark. How is it we can’t return people to China?” he said. “That’s wrong. It may delay for a year, but eventually we have the right to send that person back to the country of origin.”
WATCH: A Global News investigation has uncovered a backlog of foreigners who remain in Canada, despite being ordered out on public security or safety grounds
Experts have said Ottawa needs to apply more diplomatic pressure that could include withholding funds under foreign aid programs or imposing visa restrictions.
“Those are serious tools in the toolbox,” Kurland said. “We have to squeeze and squeeze hard the interest of that receiving country, in order to get our way.”
Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel also said more leverage was required to resolve the impasse over travel documents.
“I think that we actually have to have a debate on that and quickly, and the government has to respond,” she said.
Goodale said that diplomatic options were being considered to deal with foreign governments impeding Canada’s ability to deport criminals but did not offer specifics.
“Some countries are more cooperative than others,” Goodale said. “One of the most useful conversations that is going on now is with other countries with similar problems who are also dealing with removal issues.”
Canada currently directs $13.5 million in foreign aid to Jamaica, according to the Canadian International Development Platform an independent think-tank with the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Cuba receives about $3.3 million from Canada while India receives nearly $85 million according to the CDPI, which uses data from the federal government.
Global Affairs did not respond to a request for foreign aid statistics.