Academic journal article Refuge

In the Name of Humanitarianism: The Interim Federal Health Program and the Irregularization of Refugee Claimants

Academic journal article Refuge

In the Name of Humanitarianism: The Interim Federal Health Program and the Irregularization of Refugee Claimants

Article excerpt

Abstract

Since 1957 Canada's Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) has provided health-care coverage to refugee populations. However, from June 2012 to April 2016 the program was drastically revised in ways that restricted or denied access to health-care coverage, specifically to refugee claimants--persons who have fled their country and made an asylum claim in another country. One of the main intentions of the revision was to protect the integrity of Canada's humanitarian refugee determination system. However, this had a major unintended consequence: within everyday healthcare places like walk-in clinics, doctor's offices, and hospitals, IFHP recipients were denied access to services, regardless of actual levels of coverage. In this article I analyze how these program restrictions were experienced within Toronto's everyday health-care places through the concept of irregularization. I discuss how the IFHP, as a humanitarian health-care program, problematizes the presence of refugee claimants in ways that created experiences of vulnerability, insecurity, and anxiety. Building on this view, I conclude with a discussion of how activists who sought to draw attention to the experiences of refugee claimants in the aftermath of the IFHP revisions closed off truly transformative pathways toward social justice.

Resume

De juin 2012 a avril 2016, les demandeurs d'asile ont ete confrontes au Canada a une restriction d'acces a la couverture sanitaire par le Programme federal de sante interimaire (PFSI). Ces restrictions visaient a proteger l'integrite du systeme humanitaire du pays. J'analyse dans cet article la maniere dont ont fonctionne ces restrictions et dont elles ont ete vecues au quotidien a Toronto dans des lieux fournissant des soins de sante, j'etudie aussi comment le programme humanitaire pfsi peut etre compris comme un assemblage favorisant la non-regularite des situations, qui cible et interroge de diverses manieres la presence de demandeurs d'asile, et genere ainsi une vulnerabilite, une insecurite et une anxiete. Je conclus ensuite en examinant comment les activistes qui cherchaient a degager les demandeurs d'asile de toute irregularite au sein des etablissements de sante ont en realite ferme de veritables voies de transformation sur la route de la justice sociale.

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Humanitarianism is typically associated with ideas and practices that aim to alleviate suffering and injustice. However, as Fassin notes, humanitarianism is also founded on difference and inequality. (2) 'The actors, policies, practices, documents, and knowledges that constitute humanitarianism work to differentiate and categorize persons seeking access to humanitarian assistance and protection. In this article I analyze how Canada's humanitarian refugee system, and specifically its Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), works to differentiate and problematize the presence and claims of refugee claimants.

Since 1957 Canada has offered health-care coverage to refugee populations through the IFHP. In 2012 the program was drastically revised in ways that aimed to protect the integrity of Canada's humanitarian refugee determination system, as well as ensure fairness to Canadians and contain financial costs. (3) Here the goal was to deny access to essential healthcare coverage in order to deter refugee claimants from making a claim within the country and/or to force those within the country to leave more quickly. (4) The IFHP revision represented one of many moves adopted by the federal Conservative government to regulate refugee claimants. For example, in 2009 visa requirements for Mexican nationals were introduced in order to "reduce the burden" of Mexican claims on the refugee system, (5) and in 2010 the Designated Countries of Origin (DCO) list was introduced, which defines certain countries (including Mexico and Hungary) as respecting human rights, offering state protection, and therefore as less likely to produce refugees. …

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