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Arab Spring Intel docs show Canada's concern over refugees

by Tim Groves

Arab Spring Intel docs show Canada's concern over refugees

In the early days of the Arab Spring the Canada Border Service Agency(CBSA) created a series of Intelligence Bulletins on popular unrest in the Middle East and the Maghreb focused on the potential for refugee claims that might ensue.  

The reports came after uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011 and assessed "the short term potential for unrest in selected countries, and provides a threat rating in relation to potential impact on CBSA activities should situations become critical."  They were based on information from a variety of sources including public documents and information provided by both the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre(ITAC) and foreign agencies.

A report dated February 14th 2011 explains that "the implementation of Canadian and international controls is such that turmoil in the region is unlikely to produce a significant amount of  irregular migration to Canada, with Lebanon and Pakistan being the only exceptions.

"These documents show CBSA's fear of the Barbarians at the Gate" said Mostafah Henaway, a Montreal based activist who does middle east solidarity work and campaigns for immigrant rights in Canada. 

"This document shows that Canada is less interested in the outcomes of these uprisings and revolutions, than in Canadian national Interests like border security," asserted Henaway. He also pointed to Libya as an example of Canada being focused on its own interest. He believes that  where he said Canada was more interested in the business interest of Canadian companies like SNC Lavalin than in the lives of everyday Libyans. 

Each Intelligence Bulletin includes a table titled "Matrix - Countries of Concern", which lists if there are direct flights to Canada, how many Canadians live in the country, how many nationals from each country live in Canada, number of refugee claims made in Canada in previous years, the number of temporary visas issued, and other information on the country, and the likelihood of escalating unrest. Fourteen countries are included in the table. 

The report highlights six countries that had higher refugee claims in 2010 than 2009, and warned that  "if the situation within these countries further deteriorates which could lead to an influx in claimants." There countries were Pakistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia. 

The bulletin explains that Yemen and Lebanon are countries most likely to experience popular unrest, but that "monitoring should be maintained on Pakistan, Algeria, and Libya." 

Also highlighted are several other countries that aren't always associated with the Arab spring, pointing out that revolts had taken place Sudan, Djibouti, and Albania. 

An earlier version from the report from January 31st 2011, lists Libya and Syria as having a "LOW" probability of unrest. 

"It is an irony" says Henaway, - pointing out that while these countries were seemingly the most unlikely to be where the uprising spread at the end of January 2011, they became the most bloody uprising. also noting that "these are the countries where western powers have has the most influence, In Libya they were quite successful in cooping the revolution.

A separate CBSA Intelligence document titled "Political Crisis in Egypt: Characteristics of Terrorists or Extremists who may attempt to exploit the situation" was also released on January 31st 2011. It explores the possibility that terrorist groups would "exploit the crisis and attempt to dispatch operatives to Canada or that individual radicalized Canadian, if any, may return to Canada."  

"It is an insane kind of islamophobia or inherent racism" said Henaway after examine the document. 

Much of the document is redacted but it notes that 6500 Canadians live in Egypt and that flights were arranged to bring Canadians home from the unrest.  It also speaks about the Muslim Brotherhood, which it calls "the largest opposition movement in Egypt", explaining it is an Islamist organization but acknowledges it advocates peaceful means for bringing about its goal of a "political Islam in Egypt"

Henaway, sees the Muslim Brotherhood as quite similar to the Canadian Conservative Party, noting they are both "socially conservative and pro-capitalist."

CBSA regularly creates intelligence bulletins exploring the potential impact of world events on its work and activities. 


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Tim Groves (Tim Groves)
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Muslim Brotherhood

One quick point: to say that the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt is "quite similar" to the Conservative Party of Canada is a pretty gross oversimplification - just because the Muslim Brotherhood is "socially conservative and pro-capitalist" says nothing in particular about the nature of the group in contrast to most other political parties, nor its complex relationship with the revolutionary forces on the ground. I just wanted to put that point forward as it should be of interest to anyone in Canada trying to make sense of what is happening in Egypt right now...

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